By: Michele DiPasquale
Those of us who drive are aware of the organ donor section on our driver’s licenses but don’t pay as much attention to it as we could. From TV and movies, we’re all even more in tune to how vital donating one’s organs can be to those in critical need. Happily, many organs can be obtained by a living donor.
Roxbury residents Kim Roumes and Bob Williams can teach us all a thing or two about this incredible process, as they are the living donor and recipient, respectively, of a healthy kidney. Contrary to what many of us think, becoming a live organ donor, according to Roumes, is much easier than we think.
“You just have to be a healthy person. If you’re a healthy person, you can save somebody’s life,” she said.
Roumes and her kidney recipient – and long-time neighborhood acquaintance – 101.5 FM radio traffic reporter, Bob Williams, appeared together at the Roxbury Mayor and Council meeting’s National Donate a Life Month celebration at the end of March, where Roxbury Mayor Bob DeFillippo referred to Roumes as a local heroine, while Williams called her an angel.
“Kim is simply amazing. She is the most selfless and caring person. We as a community are truly blessed to be living in the midst of a true heroine,” shared Williams.
The operation was a success, and during his recuperation, Williams wrote a heartfelt open letter of thanks to Roumes on the 101.5 FM website. Roumes responded: “I don’t want you to feel like you have to ‘repay’ me, just continue to feel better and live to see your grandchildren (hopefully) and what they may accomplish. I chose you because you are a special person and now we have a bond that connects us for the rest of our lives. This was meant to be! I was never looking for praise. I just wanted to be able to help you,” she said.
Both Roumes and Williams are Roxbury residents and had been acquaintances through the years; their children had grown up and played sports together, and they knew each other socially, but they weren’t extremely close, so it came as a shock to Williams when he learned that Roumes would be willing to donate one of her kidneys to him. Furthermore, Williams said at first he was horrified by the idea of seeking a living organ donor, despite the fact that his prognosis was grim.
“Initially, I was not interested or motivated in seeking a living donor candidate. I was completely mortified by the thought of asking someone to give up part of their body for me. Why would someone do that for me,” Williams asked rhetorically.
How it happened was Roumes had seen an item on Facebook placed by Williams’ wife, Kathleen, about her husband’s dire health crisis, so Roumes decided to be tested to see if she was a match to Williams.
And talk about serendipity: In November, both Roumes and Williams had run into each other at Panera Bread in Succasunna. The two had not seen each other for a few years but were casual acquaintances, so they happily said hello while Roumes told Williams how she saw his wife’s Facebook post and had gone to the hospital where he was to be tested to see if she was a match.
“My jaw just dropped,” Mr. Williams said. “The next thing she did is she looked at me with a hopeful look. Then she crossed her fingers and said, ‘Let’s keep our fingers crossed that this is going to work.’ I was completely blown away, completely stunned. I couldn’t stop hugging her and I told her daughter, ‘You have the most wonderful mother in the whole world,’” he said.
“I did this truly from the bottom of my heart,” Roumes said at the Roxbury council meeting. “It was something I never looked back on and something I will never regret.”
“We are going to tell our story and I’m going to use whatever information I have to bring as much awareness to organ donation, living donor donation, deceased donor donation, donors on driver’s licenses,” Williams said. “I’m going to do whatever I can and I told Kim I’m taking her with me,” he said.