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the long journey

Jamal Shuriah is a talented NYC-based Broadway performer who needs a kidney. Unfortunately, this isn't his first rodeo.

 

Diagnosed with a genetic kidney disease called FSGS in 2017, Jamal finally received a kidney from a stranger in 2020 during the height of Covid. But, the kidney failed due to an infection. Nine months later, Jamal amazingly received a kidney from another stranger. Twenty-one months after that, the second kidney failed for an entirely different reason than the first.

 

But, doctors ABSOLUTELY believe his body can make a third donated kidney work for the long-term. And, it's fair to say, no one would make better use of it than Jamal. 

 

Let's raise the curtain on his story and how he got to the point of this unexpected transplant encore....

 

A born and bred New Yorker, Jamal was rehearsing for a pre-Broadway show in 2017 when he noticed profound changes in his body. The fatigue nearly brought him to his knees in once effortless rehearsals. He dropped 60 pounds. He had trouble eating. It's didn't take long for doctors to realize that his kidneys were failing with the cause being FSGS (focal segmental glomerulosclerosis), a genetic condition that causes scare tissue to develop on kidneys. 

 

He was put on the transplant list and immediately went into surgery to have a catheter placed in his lower abdomen for peritoneal dialysis, which removed waste products from his blood. Remember, with working kidneys, that process occurs when you urinate. Given the kidneys work non-stop to clean blood, Jamal had to eventually go to dialysis three times a week for 3-4 hours at a time. He woke up before 5:00am to get in for his appointments all so he could still push as much as he could to do his thing on stage. It only worked for so long though, and he had to hit the pause button on dancing and performing.

 

Jamal's time on the transplant list was filled with false promises but high hopes. Finally, three years after a diagnosis, a stranger stepped up. Kim Constantinesco wanted to save a life in a time when so much life was lost. So, Jamal and Kim, who never met in the hospital, masked up and checked into Columbia Presbyterian Hospital at 5:30am. All Kim knew was that she was donating to a 32-year-old man. Only a curtain separated them in the pre-op area, and as their teams took vitals and prepped them for surgery, Kim overheard his birth year and then his name. It's an important detail because...

 

Just four days after surgery, Jamal's new kidney clotted and died due to C-diff, an infection that can occur in hospitals and other care settings in people who are immunocompromised. He was immediately placed back on the transplant list and on dialysis.

 

When Kim googled his name after surgery, she learned the kidney did not take. She found this site thanks to Rebecca Castonguay, Jamal's longtime college friend, setting up the page and kicking off the new search for a kidney. Jamal, Kim, and Rebecca hit the ground running giving interviews to local and national news outlets and spreading word that Jamal needed a kidney that would match his B+ blood type, or someone willing to go into the paired exchange program with him (Paired exchange, or "kidney swap," allows two transplant recipients to receive living donor kidneys when their original intended donors aren't a match).

 

In January of 2021, Rebecca received an email out of the blue from a woman in Arizona. Laura Lawrence saw his story and had always dreamed of donating her kidney to a stranger. She knew in her bones that she just had to donate to Jamal. So, she flew to NYC for a full day of medical and psychological testing, and was relieved to learn that she was a perfect match for Jamal, from tissue type to kidney size.

 

On September 30, 2021, Jamal had his second kidney transplant and it was a resounding success. He went from not being able to pee and restricting fluid/food consumption to urinating on his own for the first time in years and finally enjoying eating again. His day-to-day life changed beyond the basics, too. He landed dance gigs, modeling jobs, and two longer-term contracts in shows in Salt Lake City (Kim, Laura, and Rebecca even sat front row!) and Washington D.C., where he performed in front of Michelle Obama.

 

Fast forward to June 2023, just weeks after his run in D.C. ended. Jamal was feeling run down and sick again, so he checked himself into the hospital back in NY. His medical team discovered that he was being affected by acute cellular rejection and antibody medicated rejection. Half of his kidney is working while the other half is not. Doctors tried to reverse the rejection with treatment, but said it will not work. 

 

So, Jamal is back on the transplant list and on dialysis for a third time. Doctors are extremely hopeful that the next kidney will work for the long-term because there isn't anything specific about Jamal's body or condition that will cause the next kidney to automatically be rejected.

 

Jamal remains hopeful, too. And, whoever his next donor is can be guaranteed one thing: the act of donating a kidney will give Jamal his best shot at living a full and healthy life filled with endless standing ovations.  

 

If you have questions about the living donation process and want to see if you're a match for Jamal (or would live to enter the paired exchange program with him), contact Rebecca TODAY at findjamalakidney@gmail.com.

 

You can also support Jamal by sharing the link to this site or by donating to his GoFundMe page.    

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