On Monday, South Orange Village President Alex Torpey read a proclamation recognizing South Orange deputy clerk Sherri Golden. The North Plainfield resident was recognized for being a part of the St. Barnabas Living Donor Institute, where she gave her kidney to save someone else’s life. However, more importantly, by doing so, she saved her husband’s life as well.
Derrick Golden, a 15 year veteran with the Newark Police Department, had kidney problems long before he married Sherri on January 9, 2011. Beginning in 2007, Derrick started having pain in his kidneys and had to be hospitalized for around a week. His condition started to deteriorate and he was soon diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, chronic kidney disease affects over 26 million people across the world. It causes complications like high blood pressure, low blood count, weak bones, poor nutritional health and nerve damage. Also, kidney disease increases your risk of having heart and blood vessel disease. As kidney disease progresses, it sometimes leads to kidney failure, which would then require dialysis or a kidney transplant.
In March 2011, just two months into the Goldens’ marriage, Derrick was told he would need a transplant. He would need to join the over 113,000 people across the country on the waiting list for a transplant. In addition, without a transplant, it was only a matter of time before he would need to be put on dialysis. Faced with these obstacles, Sherri began researching ways to help her husband.
“When his kidney doctor told him he needed a transplant, I was looking for several options on the internet about who does these types of programs,” Sherri told Patch. “On the internet, I came across St. Barnabas Living Donor program. What I did was I signed myself right up to see if I could be a direct match.”
However, Sherri was not a direct match for Derrick. She took all the tests and recalled that “one of my chromosomes was not directly a match for him.” That is when the doctors approached her about becoming a part of St. Barnabas’ Living Donor Exchange Program.
“They asked me if I wanted to be a part of the Living Donor Exchange program, where you’d be helping another couple as well” said Sherri. “(The healthy member of the other couple) may be a direct match for my husband, and then I can help another person who may need one.”
Sherri signed herself up for the program, hoping that it could bring a kidney to Derrick.
“I was shocked, but I was also proud at the same time,” Derrick said about when Sherri approached him with the program. “I started reaching out to everybody because at first I was quiet about the whole thing. My kidneys, the level had dropped some, but it was staying stable. Only within the last year when my kidneys started shutting down, that’s when I started reaching out to people. Me and my wife sat down and we started writing a letter, I let my whole job know… I was just reaching out for anyone to help me. But she wound up putting in and we just went from there.”
Luckily, Sherri has an O negative blood type, meaning that she can be a universal donor. This made it easier for her to be able to become a match for another couple in need.
“If it wasn’t for the exchange program, my husband would still be on the list waiting for the kidney, so I thought this was the best option,” said Sherri. “If I could help if I could help another person, then so be it.”
The couple soon found out they were a match with another husband and wife in the same predicament. The surgery was scheduled for December 13, 2011 and was deemed a success. Sherri only had to spend three days in the hospital and Derrick had to spend five, but both were home within a week.
When a living donor gives up a kidney, the other kidney expands in size and performs the functions as if there were two. Sherri had a minor setback, but for the most part had a speedy recovery. Derrick also had a speedy recovery.
“I thought (recovery) was going to be harder, but it was pretty ok, it wasn’t that bad” said Derrick. The most we both dealt with was the pain, but the medication helped that, so it was ok.”
Sherri returned to her job as deputy clerk in late January, a week earlier than expected.
I felt as though I was able to (come back to work),” said Sherri. “I just really wanted to get out of the house.”
Sherri said that she received lots of support from South Orange officials during her recovery. She said they checked on her constantly and gave her updates about what was happening in the Village, which she jokingly said “depressed my speedy recovery. When she returned, she was welcomed back with open arms.
“We were all very supportive of Sherri,” said South Orange Village Clerk Robin Kline. “Taking time off from work, whether for pre-screening testing, surgery, or the recovery period, was not an issue. We wanted Sherri to focus on her family’s needs and her health first and foremost. Once Sherri came back to work she jumped right back into the thick of things. It’s great having her back.“
As for the public recognition, Sherri says she is glad to have it because it puts more of a spotlight on the Living Donor Exchange program and hopes that more people look into using it.
“I want people to understand that it’s not a scary thing giving up a kidney,” said Sherri. “Not only did I save my husband’s life, I also saved someone else’s. So I am very grateful of the program.”