Dr. Stuart Himmelstein has spent every night of the past five years on dialysis. Since learning he had a rare form of kidney disease, the primary care physician with a private practice in Delray Beach has been on the deceased donor transplant list with no success. So he decided to create a Facebook page titled “New Kidney for Stu.”
Himmelstein, who started the page in June 2016, has been getting a surge in likes on his page after a local news station recently ran a segment on his plight. “Since the segment aired, 19 people have reached out to contact me about my quest for a kidney,” he said. “I was diagnosed in 2012 with tuberous sclerosis, which is a congenital abnormality. The sooner I get a kidney, the better. My energy levels are definitely down and if I’m healthier, I can continue to help others.”
Having to explain to his 90-year-old mother that he needs a kidney is heart-wrenching for Himmelstein, who has been practicing medicine for 30 years and is affiliated with Delray Medical Center. “I have had the sweetest people including an 85-year-old man try to help me find a kidney,” he said. “I have to help my own mother understand why she can’t give her baby a kidney.”
His sister works in Manhattan, and he said friends and relatives in New York have been trying to share his Facebook page. “Anyone who potentially wants to be a donor has to undergo a screening process,” Himmelstein, 58, said. “I’ve gotten close a few times where a donor was going to give me a kidney but then they had to back out for personal or medical reasons.”
His friend Mary Milchikier is also trying to help him spread the word. Milchikier, an employee at Delray Medical Center, donated a kidney to her brother-in-law. Milchikier said she wishes she was born with three kidneys so she could give one to Himmelstein.
“My husband had to have a liver transplant so I am very familiar with the donor and recipient process and I learned everything I could about transplants,” Milchikier said. “My husband received his liver transplant through a woman who was in a tragic car accident, but my brother-in-law needed a kidney and couldn’t find a donor, so I volunteered to give him mine.”
While a healthy person can live a normal life with just one kidney, she must now make sure she drinks at least of two liters of water a day and monitors her sugar and protein intake. “I have a special place in my heart for those in need of organ transplants and I really hope Stu gets a kidney,” Milchikier said. “I wanted to pay it forward after everything I watched my husband go through.”
Himmelstein said most of the organ transplant donors he’s met have a positive outlook on it, as Milchikier does. “Mary is so positive about her donation and has this eternal positivity,” he said. “I am hopeful my walking angel is out there.”