Newswise — HACKENSACK, NJ – For eight months, Arthur Dranoff, 60, a hospital MRI technologist, had been spending five hours a day, four days a week on dialysis due to kidney failure. But on Monday, April 4, 2022, the generosity of 21-year-old kidney donor Savanna Knapp saved his life. 

Samuel Sultan, M.D., transplant surgeon at Hackensack University Medical Center, performed Savanna’s donor procedure using a single-incision laparoscopic approach — marking the first time the surgical technique has been used at Hackensack University Medical Center. Shortly thereafter, Michael Goldstein, M.D., performed Arthur’s kidney transplant procedure. 

Making Connections with Potential Donors

When Arthur was diagnosed with kidney disease, he chose to work with Renewal — a Brooklyn-based nonprofit organization that assists with the donor search process, provides donor education and removes barriers to kidney donation. 

Arthur’s son invited Savanna, a friend from college, to attend an informational webinar about kidney donation hosted by Renewal on Arthur’s behalf, and Savanna and her husband accepted. After mailing a simple cheek swab cell sample, Savanna learned she was a match. 

“I wanted to donate a kidney for years, and this seemed providential,” said Savanna, whose husband supported her throughout the entire kidney donation process. “Every door was opening, and the process was a lot simpler than I thought.”

After Savanna completed initial testing at a local lab, she and her husband traveled from their home in Florida to Hackensack University Medical Center for more extensive testing.

And after everything checked out, Arthur got the call letting him know that he found the match he and his family had been waiting for — but initially, Arthur and his family didn’t know Savanna’s identity. 

“The family didn’t know who [the donor] was until I called my friend Aaron about a week before the surgery,” said Savanna. “It was a pretty cool phone call, but before that, they only had demographic information saying that I was a 21-year-old female.”

Smooth Surgeries and Outstanding Outcomes

Savanna’s minimally invasive, single-incision procedure at Hackensack University Medical Center went smoothly, and she was discharged from the hospital in two days. 

“I expected a big, gnarly scar, but all I have is a two-inch scar straight through my belly button,” said Savanna. “I only needed to take pain medication for a week after surgery and I was pretty much back to normal within two weeks.”

“Savanna was an ideal candidate for this technique, and she is doing great,” said Dr. Sultan. “I was happy to be able to offer this technique to her.”

Arthur has a scar on his abdomen — a small price to pay, he says, for getting his life back. He was discharged from the hospital four days after his transplant procedure, and two weeks later, he said he already feels like he has more energy. 

Creating a Ripple Effect to Inspire Others

Savanna and Arthur had the opportunity to meet for the first time in the hospital and continue to keep in touch.

“How do you thank a person who gives you a kidney and saves your life?” said Arthur. “Savanna and her husband are two special people, and I told her, whether she likes it or not, they are family now.”

“Our goal is to provide outstanding surgical care for donors and recipients that facilitates optimal transplant outcomes,” said Dr. Goldstein. “We are so proud to be a part of Savanna and Arthur’s remarkable story, and we are grateful for organizations that work to bring kidney donors and recipients together.”

Savanna and Arthur both hope their story causes a ripple effect that inspires more people to consider kidney donation.

“I want people to know it’s not very scary and not as painful as they think, and organizations like Renewal help to make the process easier by removing barriers such as travel and lodging expenses, and time off work,” said Savanna. “Kidney donation is something I felt called to do, and I would absolutely do it again.”

ABOUT HACKENSACK UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER

Hackensack University Medical Center, a 771-bed nonprofit teaching and research hospital, is the largest provider of inpatient and outpatient services in New Jersey. Founded in 1888 as Bergen County's first hospital, it was the first hospital in New Jersey and second in the nation to become a Magnet®-recognized hospital for nursing excellence. The academic flagship of Hackensack Meridian Health, Hackensack University Medical Center ranked #1 in New Jersey and #7 in the New York metro area by U.S. News & World Report’s 2021-2022 “Best Hospitals” Honor Roll, making it the only hospital in New Jersey with the #1 adult and children’s hospital rankings. Hackensack University Medical Center is also rated as High Performing in 14 specialties procedures and conditions, and sets the standard for all New Jersey hospitals in several specialties. The campus is home to facilities such as John Theurer Cancer Center, the #1 hospital for cancer care in New Jersey in U.S. News & World Report’s 2021-2022 "Best Hospitals" Honor Roll; the Heart & Vascular Hospital, and the Sarkis and Siran Gabrellian Women’s and Children’s Pavilion, recognized as being in the top 1% of children’s hospitals in the nation and #1 children’s hospital in New Jersey by U.S. News & World Report’s 2021-22 "Best Hospitals" Honor Roll. Hackensack University Medical Center’s comprehensive clinical research portfolio includes studies focused on precision medicine, translational medicine, immunotherapy, cell therapy, and vaccine development. 

ABOUT HACKENSACK MERIDIAN HEALTH

Hackensack Meridian Health is a leading not-for-profit health care organization that is the largest, most comprehensive and truly integrated health care network in New Jersey, offering a complete range of medical services, innovative research and life-enhancing care. 

Hackensack Meridian Health comprises 17 hospitals from Bergen to Ocean counties, which includes three academic medical centers – Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, JFK Medical Center in Edison; two children’s hospitals - Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital in Hackensack, K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital in Neptune; nine community hospitals – Bayshore Medical Center in Holmdel, Mountainside Medical Center in Montclair, Ocean Medical Center in Brick, Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, Pascack Valley Medical Center in Westwood, Raritan Bay Medical Center in Old Bridge, Raritan Bay Medical Center in Perth Amboy, Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, and Southern Ocean Medical Center in Manahawkin; a behavioral health hospital – Carrier Clinic in Belle Mead; and two rehabilitation hospitals - JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute in Edison and Shore Rehabilitation Institute in Brick. 

Additionally, the network has more than 500 patient care locations throughout the state which include ambulatory care centers, surgery centers, home health services, long-term care and assisted living communities, ambulance services, lifesaving air medical transportation, fitness and wellness centers, rehabilitation centers, urgent care centers and physician practice locations. Hackensack Meridian Health has more than 36,000 team members, and 7,000 physicians and is a distinguished leader in health care philanthropy, committed to the health and well-being of the communities it serves.

The network’s notable distinctions include having four of its hospitals are among the top hospitals in New Jersey for 2020-21, according to U.S. News & World Report. Additionally, the health system has more top-ranked hospitals than any system in New Jersey. Children’s Health is again ranked a top provider of pediatric health care in the United States and earned top 50 rankings in the annual U.S. News’ 2020-21 Best Children’s Hospitals report. Other honors include consistently achieving Magnet® recognition for nursing excellence from the American Nurses Credentialing Center and being named to Becker’s Healthcare’s “150 Top Places to Work in Healthcare/2019” list. 

The Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, the first private medical school in New Jersey in more than 50 years, welcomed its first class of students in 2018 to its On3 campus in Nutley and Clifton. The Hackensack Meridian Center for Discovery and Innovation (CDI), housed in a fully renovated state-of-the-art facility, seeks to translate current innovations in science to improve clinical outcomes for patients with cancer, infectious diseases and other life-threatening and disabling conditions.

Additionally, the network partnered with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to find more cures for cancer faster while ensuring that patients have access to the highest quality, most individualized cancer care when and where they need it. 

Hackensack Meridian Health is a member of AllSpire Health Partners, an interstate consortium of leading health systems, to focus on the sharing of best practices in clinical care and achieving efficiencies. 

To learn more, visit www.hackensackmeridianhealth.org.

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