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.”
To learn more, visit www.hackensackmeridianhealth.