When Harold Mintz met Gennet Belay, a stranger to whom he had donated one of his kidneys some months earlier, he wondered how that kidney could have possibly fit inside her. He was a 6’5” tall man, and she was a “tiny” immigrant from Ethiopia, that had suffered for years and years due to an increasingly failing kidney… But then she showed him the site of the surgery, and there it was: a little lump on the left side of her back, clearly visible under her skin – Harold’s giant kidney working perfectly inside its crowded new quarters of a person he never met before…
Harold was the first living person in America to donate an organ to a complete stranger, after a change in legislation allowed this for the first time ever.
But what kind of person would even do that? In this episode, Rob Konrad asks him this and other burning questions, like: Was he afraid? Did he want to meet the recipient after the surgery? What if someone in his family needed a kidney down the line?
Harold shares a deeply personal story of encounters and experiences that led him to an ethical revelation that prizes two things above all else: life and fun.
Listen to the episode – and join the conversation now!
00:00:00 – Episode Teaser
00:01:38 – Introduction by Rob Konrad
00:02:05 – “Would YOU give your kidney to a complete stranger?”
00:04:38 – A pretty cheerleader paves the way for a dramatic decision many decades down the line
00:05:58 – His father’s sudden passing shocks Harold’s family
... read more....
00:07:34 – Choosing the life paths that bring joy
00:08:49 – A girl with leukemia and her parent’s desperate struggle to find a donor make Harold think
00:09:52 – A movie on an airplane prompts Harold to investigate organ donation
00:11:48 – The decision to donate to a stranger – and the bureaucracy that gets in the way
00:13:38 – A neighborhood-based organ donation programme gets approved in Washington DC
00:16:07 – Kidney number two is just a backup
00:17:30 – Ulterior motives? Surely no one just wants to give away an organ.
00:19:24 – “My Kidney is in an Ethiopian woman”
00:20:49 – What if your kidney were to end up in an “asshole”?
00:24:34 – Why some people’s kidneys don’t work in the first place
00:26:59 – Up to 25 people die in the US per day awaiting organ transplants
00:29:38 – The surgery
00:32:38 – Harold’s kidney takes to its new home, and works perfectly
00:35:00 – A call to set up a meeting between donor and recipient – Harold declines
00:37:30 – …and then changes his mind
00:41:07 – The Ethiopian woman, named Genne Belayt, and her husband share their story of hardship.
00:44:10 – A series of bizarre coincidences
00:46:16 – What a big kidney looks like in a tiny body
00:48:59 – Harold’s wife, Susan, joins the interview
00:49:44 – “Between now and maybe”
00:52:56 – How one profound story has lead others to donate organs
00:55:38 – Hate mail
01:01:38 – How to match kidneys with recipients: the great (legal) organ exchange
01:12:02 – Why many patients on dialysis remain uninformed about organ donation
01:16:57 – The Mintzes become part of the Belay family
01:25:19 – A short documentary on Harold and Gennet
01:27:29 – Whom he considers extraordinary – and his message to the viewers
01:28:18 – A closing note on breadcrumbs
Listen as Podcast
In December of 2000, Harold became one of the country’s first “non-designated” living organ donors – offering his kidney to a total stranger – through a pilot program (The Living Donor Registry) of the Washington Regional Transplant Community. We are happy to report that today, both donor and recipient are alive and thriving. A “happily ever after” if there ever was one.
Following his donation experience, Harold became an active advocate for organ and blood donation, speaking to schools and groups around the country. It is Harold’s goal to increase the number of people considering organ donation and in turn, to decrease the number of people currently on the waiting list that suffer from a multitude of life threatening diseases.
After an extremely successful career in Sales, Design, Marketing and Special Events, Harold is now looking to bridge his expertise garnered from the business world and blend it with his passion for the organ donation community.
Connect with Harold
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Rob Konrad: Hey, and welcome. This is Rob Konrad from Switzerland. And let's do a little thought experiment. Would you give your kidney to your wife? Or to your husband? Or to your child, if they would need it? Probably, most people would say “yes”. Now, would you give your kidney to your let's say, brother in law or sister in law if she would need it? Probably also “yes”. Now, let's continue this a little bit. Would you give your kidney to your best friend? Would you give your kidney to your neighbor?
And finally, we're going to arrive at one question: “Would you give your kidney to a complete stranger?” And this is exactly what Harold Mintz did in the year 2000, after a change in legislation allowed this for the first time ever. He gave away one of his kidneys to someone he didn't know and why he did that, and what thoughts went through his mind? Well, let's ask him. He's online today with me. And thank you so much for taking the time, Harold Mintz.
Harold Mintz: Pleasure, Rob, how are you doing?
Rob Konrad: I'm doing great, I'm doing great. Although I have to say you're the reason for some hefty discussions with my wife, actually, which can be summarized with the question, which might not sound nice but the question my wife had was, ‘Who the hell gives away a kidney to someone who she doesn't know?'
Harold Mintz: So that's legit question your wife was asking, who does that kind of thing?
Rob Konrad: Let's start with the question. Who the hell does that?
Harold Mintz: Well, I always try to respond to that by saying, nobody wakes up one day and says, hey, you know what I'm going to do today. I'm going to start giving out body parts to people I don't know. That's, just not how it works. So what kind of person? There's something else I can share. You know the end of the story, you know that I donated to someone I didn't know. But it's interesting in that I will tell you that if the things that I've experienced in my life had happened to you, or whoever might be listening, if it happened to them, I say you or they would have ended up on that surgeon's table just as well, because it's not me it was situational. It's what was built, the circumstances that led me to this decision or what led me to the decision, not what kind of person. The real question is, what does somebody have to go through that would lead them to want to do this?
Rob Konrad: All right. So what were the steps that you went through?
Harold Mintz: Well, in hindsight, you know, being able to look over your shoulder at what happened yesterday is easy. So now, I gave my kidney away in the year 2000. That's 19 years ago. Well I can tell you because it's in the past, I can tell you exactly the series of breadcrumbs that I followed that led me there. And as far as I can tell, the very first breadcrumb that I saw was high school you know. I'm a 16 year old kid and I was walking down the hall and a cheerleader, very pretty cheerleader said, ‘Hey, come give blood with me today.' She said, ‘And if you do, I'll give you one of the cupcakes I made last night.' And that right there, pretty cheerleader offering me a baked good was what led me to donate blood for the first time, you know, as a teenager. Now, flash forward to today.
What I know today, statistically, that if you go to the last hundred people who donated an organ to somebody whether they did it as a living donor like I did, they sign the driver's license and say, take it. 85% of those people have donated blood, sorry, have donated an organ or blood donors, doesn't mean that if you give blood you're going to give your organs away but if you're an organ donor, there's a very high chance that you're also a blood donor. So knowing that, in high school with the cupcake and the cheerleader, it started me on a path that led me to where we were before. So, that's, you know, in the seventies, that's a long time ago.
Flash forward a few years, and the next breadcrumb that I remember was my father's passing. At the time he was not an old guy. He was, I am older now than he was when he passed. But he was probably sick for a long time. Cancer wasn't anything organ donation related. He had cancer. And by the time they found it, they realized that they, everything they tried to do to fix him just didn't work. And so he passed. The day he found out he was sick to the day he passed was probably about six weeks, seven weeks, maybe, very short time. That was just quick, probably good for him, the patient who didn't have to suffer. But for my mom and my family that kind of was out of a blue – shock. So it's not unique. Listen, we probably all saw the Lion King. And you know, there's a circle of life, and you live your life and the idea is to love as many people and know as many people, laugh as much as you can and eventually that circle, it comes to a finish.
But I want to make that circle as big and as filled with this fun stuff as I can. And so knowing that my dad passed at an early age, I quickly realized, we probably all have tomorrow but not all of us have tomorrow. And so I started making decisions in my life that were at least I try to be conscious about it. The road splits and you've got to choose which way you're going, that way, or that way. I try to choose the one that looks the most fun. Not easy. They're not always easy but I look for where the, does that look joy, does that look fun? Will that make us happy? Those tend to be the decisions, and that's based on dad passing. But this is going to come out odd. But I'm going to say.
Having donated that kidney at the time when it struck me, when the idea finally coalesced, I was being pulled towards it. It wasn't a light decision. You don't make these decisions lightly. And I've talked to others who have donated and they've all said, kind of, strangely enough, that wasn't compulsion. But there was certainly something that I felt pulled towards this concept of that plan to help and there's other dominoes, there's other breadcrumbs in that trail.
From meeting a couple whose daughter was ill and they were asking for our daughter's, got you know, bone, got cancer, leukemia, and if they can find the right match for bone marrow that oftentimes does a great job of you know, helping the patient. You know, we met them, we, my wife and I tried to, you know, help a little bit. Here's our blood, see if we're a match. We weren't. Then I found out, you know, months later that she had passed away.
And there was an article in the newspaper, but the parents who we had met, and the parents as sad as they were, one of the first things I remember reading in that newspaper article was, they wanted to thank all the community members that had come forth and tried to help them, you know, save their daughter, who couldn't help her but because so many of you came out, eventually people will be saved because of that. And wow, you know – you're a heartbroken parent and when your first responses and reactions is to thank others for trying to help.
Now that one touched a little bit, that one I felt. So on a plane going from East Coast to West Coast of the United States and the movie that was playing that I was watching was about a high school football player who has a decision to make. He can continue to be the star of the team and play football or he can give up the season and give one of his kidneys to save his grandmother's life. And so you know, the story of the movie is do I save grandma or win the championship, you know, it wasn't a tremendous movie but and I quickly forgot about it, except when the credits were rolling, the very end, the very last thing was for organ donation, call this number.
I wrote that phone number down in the book that I had been reading and truly forgot about it. It disappeared. Months later, I'm cleaning out my briefcase and I see that book and it opens up and I see the phone number. And, hi, I saw that, can you send the information? I saw the movies, can you send me information on organ donation. And boy so quickly they sent me a big stack of brochures about organ donation, the vast majority of which was how to donate after you're dead, or if you want to give to your wife or your kid or something like that. So, I didn't find anything that was even closely related to giving to whoever needs it.
And so I called them and they said, I said, “thanks for the information” and they asked me who's the kidney for? And I said, “Well, I'm not sure I want to do this but I'm just asking questions. Are there people in our area that need kidneys?” And they said, “yeah, there's tons of people”. And I said, “Will somebody die today because they don't have the kidney?” And she said, “yeah, 25 people will die in the United States today waiting for organ that doesn't come.” I said, “Well, I'd like to help. I'd like to see if I give one”. And she said, ‘Well, who's it for?' And I said, “No, whoever needs it.”
And she said, ‘You can't do that.' So what do you mean? She said, ‘Well, in US there's something called a waiting list. And the way the federal government maintains that list and the way they keep it structured and ordered who's on the top of list, who gets the next kidney, how sick you are, how old you are, how long you've been on the list, what what organ or group of organs do you need and so every you know second basically that list is constantly being resorted, prioritized, so that the person who – however, somebody came up with that priorities list whoever needs it the most gets it and she said:
“You're not using that list. You're saying, just give it to the person in your neighborhood” – in my case I was in the Washington DC area – because I said “whoever needs the most in Washington,” and by doing that totally negates the protocol that the government has set up on how you allocate organs when they become available. She said: “sorry you can't do that…” but it's kind of crazy but she said “give us your name and phone number and if anything ever gets, you know traction, if we can put that we will reach out to you' and in my head I'm thinking “there's no way in hell anyone's ever going to call me back”.
You know, – I call a store looking for my size shirt – “yeah, we will call you back” – they never call back. So, but seriously, two years later, it's been a full two years and my phone rang and they said, ‘Hey, is this is this the Harold Mintz who said he wanted to give his kidney away?' and I laughed and went “I never said I wanted to do it. I said I had questions.” And they said, “well, believe it or not the very first community based, neighborhood based, organ donation program that allows somebody to give to somebody who they don't know or they're not related to JUST got approved and that happens to be in the Washington DC area. If you want, you have expressed interest before, please come in and come in with questions.”
Cool. So I got a sheet of paper and I literally started writing down questions. So, let's say you're going to go into the doctor tomorrow. What do you want to know? What's on your list of questions that you're going to ask the doctor? I'm asking you Rob, they're gonna cut you open tomorrow. What do you want to know?
Rob Konrad: Really? What are the risks? How will my recovery be? May I die on the operation table?
Harold Mintz: Yeah, all of those are on my list. Yeah, absolutely. So, let's go to the die question because the doctors don't like that. Here's what I'm thinking, what are the chances I won't wake up from that surgery? And they said, “well, it's probably the same number of people that won't wake up when you have any kind of surgery, whether it's, you know, gall bladder surgery or whatever”, so it's not the risk of the surgery, it's the risk of the anesthesia, in many cases, that sometimes affects people. Though, but she said to answer your question, “One out of 3000 people won't wake up from general anesthesia surgery”. And my first reaction was, “well, that's cool”. You know, on hindsight, what are the chances of winning the lottery? It's one in a bazillion, but 1 in 3,000. That's not nothing.
Rob Konrad: It's not that small, actually. So if you think about it, if you know, it's about your life again.
Harold Mintz: Yeah. So but so I go on with that. Just like the questions you said, “What about other eating or drinking restrictions? If I like fried chicken, can I continue to have fried chicken? If I want to have a glass of wine – can have a glass of wine?” And the answer was, “you can do anything you want.” Losing, you know, giving a kidney away. Make a fist Rob, make a fist. Doctors will tell you, your kidney is about the size of one of your fists. And if you're like most people, you probably got two of them and they're located in your lower back.
And if you take them, if you have two, and you take one away, this one gets a little bit bigger but it absolutely does the work that the two did it. You don't lose function, you don't, you're not unhealthy. It works, it's almost a backup. It's like an extra. And you can eat fried food and your heart won't love you and you can have a bottle of wine every night and your liver won't love you. But if you want to give a kidney away, no problem. It has absolutely no impact on that. So yeah, so I went through all these questions and when I finished I said to them, “nothing you've said to me has freaked me out. It's – I understand it. What's next?” And they said… I thought it would have been, you know, pee in a jar, or you know, give some blood but the very first medical test they did was, they sent me to a psychiatrist. Of course what kind of knucklehead wakes up in the morning and says, “you know, hey, let's find a stranger to give my kidney.”
Rob Konrad: Yeah, that's actually one of the points of discussion I had with my wife. Because she said, “I mean, it's great and it's absolutely adorable what he did, and it's fantastic and but is there something wrong with him? Is there something like from his previous life he feels bad about that he now has the urge to give away his kidneys? What is he trying to compensate”, basically my wife said. He seems like a nice guy. But let's let me ask him, let me ask him…
Harold Mintz: What am I trying to compensate for? Well, look, your wife is right to ask those questions. I told you when we first met, when I share my story, and I hear myself telling the story, who does that? It's an odd, today, at least it's an odd thing for somebody to do. It's not, it's not normal. But there's more people today that are raising their hand and doing this than there have ever been before. And I think it's partly awareness. One of the reasons I'm happy to chat with you is that, you and I have no idea if there's somebody who will see this and seeing it becomes one of their breadcrumbs on their trail to wherever they're headed. It's not where I'm headed, it's wherever the hell they're headed. But if you ask me about this I am tingling, as I tell you that. I'm happy to share this story with you. I wear this. Green is organ donation's color. One main reason is, I hope somebody sits next to me on a plane and goes, ‘Green. What is that? You don't like cilantro?' No, no, it's actually organ donation and invite me Colombo – it's an odd story. You know, how many Uber drivers I've shared my story with? You know, some time, let's jump to the end of the story. I know where my kidney is. I didn't lose it. It's on 3000 miles away in Washington DC. I'm in Los Angeles and like currently in Washington DC, and that's kind of odd, isn't it? But there's a – I forgot what I was going to tell you. Where was I in that story? What was it?
Rob Konrad: Yeah, yeah, you wouldn't jump to the end of the story after he said to you.
Harold Mintz: My kidney is in an Ethiopian woman. Sorry, yeah, yeah, it's in a tiny little Ethiopian woman and because of that, my wife and I are now, and my child, we're heavily into Ethiopian food. One of the great benefits of you know, when you, you give somebody a piece of your body, you think they're going to absorb parts of your personality or something, I think we absorbed part of hers.
Rob Konrad: So, we talked about this, when we had our first conversation. The person who is taking care of your kidney as you always like to say, which is a nice way of putting it and she seems to be great person I mean, she's a loving wife, loving mother and generally a nice person. One of the things when I was doing the experiment in my head was, what if I would give away my kidney and instead of this nice Ethiopian lady who's you know suffered for a while with the dialysis and stuff, what if I would give my kidney away and then know it ends up in someone who is you know beating his wife and drinking too much and doing reckless stuff and just dying two years later?
Harold Mintz: Okay, so let's talk about that. Let's say you did that. And that's the person who got your kidney was exactly like you just described, how would you feel?
Rob Konrad: I would feel pretty bad. I would say that was my kidney. Why didn't you take care of my kidney?
Harold Mintz: Well, are they not taking care of it? Or are they just an asshole? Which, you know, so if they're not taking care of it. Take care of it. If they don't, I let go of that. But as far as their not being the person that I want them to be? Pretty, pretty lofty thing to try to judge now. There's probably some obvious people that we could point out to, whether they're, you know, historical figures or current presidents of certain countries that they don't care for. But as I've said, if you give your kidney to the asshole, maybe they won't be as much of an asshole the day after you give it to them. It's not my job to try to control what other people do or don't do. I know, I have my preferences. I'd like them to be nice, but I got control of this, not them. And so look, if you had told me beforehand, ‘Hey, some asshole is going to get your kidney? Do you want to do it?' My head said no, I'm not that nice of a guy. But that's not the program. That's not what the situation is.
Rob Konrad: But did that thought occur to you before you donated?
Harold Mintz: Not really. And I got to tell you in the time that I had it was probably from the time I went into the psychiatrist to the day I was on the surgeon's table that was probably about five or six months. It wasn't short, you know. It stretched out even to the point where I was, ‘why is it taking so long? You know, why would – they have all the information, what are we waiting on?' And it just gave me a lot of time to ask a lot of questions. That's not a question I ever asked. I never asked what if they're..? That's because there's no right answer. I mean, what if they are? Assume they're going to be. Do you still do this? The psychiatrists poked and prodded me with a lot of questions like that the first time around. I think they were trying to determine why as your wife asked, why would somebody do this? Why would you wake up and do this? And, I've always assumed they're looking for answers like, there's some people who like having surgery, there's some people who like the attention, there's some people whatever that list is. But I understand, let's check, but of all the questions I had, I still say that that's not that's not been one of them. What happened exactly. There's too many what ifs that I don't have control over.
Rob Konrad: So that process you said it started with the psychiatric examination basically, what was next? So there were some physical checkups, I assume?
Harold Mintz: Yeah, they, one of the benefits of doing this, is they won't take it from an unhealthy person. They seriously check you out and if you pass their test, at least at the time that you're giving, you're healthy. You're a good candidate to do this because the Hippocratic Oath doctors take supposedly says, first do no harm and that's why people couldn't give a kidney to strangers before because there is an ethical question that doctor say that might be harming a healthy patient for no good reason. And it wasn't until they tackle that, that they said, well, let's do a few experiments. Try and see it works.
Rob Konrad: So what are the risks that the kidney of a healthy person fails, or both kidneys put it this way, one kidney wouldn't be that much of a problem but both kidneys fail, or that the kidney of a person who only has one kidney fails? How big of a chance is there?
Harold Mintz: Well, there's two main reasons – there's probably lots of them, but the two main reason people end up on the waiting list is a chronic kidney disease, something CKD, and diabetes. Now diabetes here in the United States, it's hard not to find any food that doesn't have sugar in it. But it's a big leading cause of diabetes. And if you are low income, and you get food from fast food places and convenience stores, there's even that much more sugar. And you see people walking out with those huge sodas.
Rob Konrad: Oh, yeah, yes.
Harold Mintz: But so those two reasons lead to people losing kidneys. Diabetes oftentimes leads to dialysis for a certain amount of time and then your body says I need the real thing. Give me the kidney back.
Rob Konrad: Okay. Okay. So if you don't have these two preconditions, because that's something that you will probably know you would be aware of that then chances are relatively low I mean there might be accidents to some severe accidents.
Harold Mintz: Yeah exactly. You're looking at boxers. Yeah,
Rob Konrad: Yeah, your kidney should be fine. Let's put it this way.Okay.
Harold Mintz: Most of us are walking around with two healthy kidneys our whole life. There's a statistic, I did a quick check for Switzerland. Right now, 1500 people are waiting for an organ in Switzerland and about 2 people die every week waiting for an organ. Now 2 people a week in Switzerland. The US is much bigger, 25 a day. And one of the frustrating things for me is doctors know exactly what to do to fix these people. Not like there's a cancer that they don't know how to fix yet. They're working on, they're trying to fix it. Doctors know exactly what to do to fix these people with, that need kidneys. Okay, Rob, you're an O positive blood type, they go to the shelf, and they look for the O positive matched kidney. And they come back and tell you sorry, we're out of those today, come back tomorrow. And you go, yeah, I don't have tomorrow. I need it now. 25 times a day, they can fix it but there are just not enough parts on the shelf. So people are dying from a shortage of parts. And as we know, most people die with two intact kidneys. At least here in the States most people don't donate after they're done with them. So there's a gap there. I think in 15 years from now, that fast and 15 years from today, doctors will be growing kidneys in petri dishes or 3D printers with bio material is going to print you, here's your kidney and doing things like I did is going to be you did what! Let's go to 7/11 and buy a kidney. You know, it's going to change. It's hard not to see that science is backing up. But today, lots of people are dying in both our countries from something they know exactly what to do to fix. Yeah.
Rob Konrad: So let's go back to the process and how you ended up on the operation table. So as the days you know, were counting down what did you feel?
Harold Mintz: Well, when they told me I passed all the tests, up into that point I remember I kept telling my wife, there's no way I'm going to pass all these tests because we knew there were people I'm seeing in line in front of me trying to get through this new program. And people had tried to get through and were kicked out for one reason or another. They found something in the scans, you answered a question or whatever they found out, all 10 were knocked out. I'm looking, there's no way I'm getting through. Well, so once they approved us and said, ‘Congratulations, you're the first', we sat down and said, okay, what's – any last questions? Any last concerns? You can come in and ask. No, we're good. There was a six week window between when we said that and when I gave and so there was a lot of time for me to think about both questioning the decision. Who would get it? Do I want to meet them afterwards? Will my life change? How long is it? How bad is it going to hurt? I mean, you go through standard list, but it was a growing, I'm gonna use the word excitement although that sounds bad. I was excited about what the results would bring of the surgery. And I was hoping, I was thinking positive. I wasn't thinking assholes are going to get my kidney. I was thinking, you know, happily ever after stories, which doesn't happen either. But, you know, you're thinking about it, hey, I hope a kid gets it, or somebody needy. I was thinking positive as more questions. And so let's go to day of surgery. My wife and I drive early in the morning to the hospital. The first surgery of the day, I guess. So we were there at six o'clock, or whatever time they told us. So my wife and I are you know I'm wearing that gown right before they wheel you in and they come and give you a shot in the butt to make you a little bit more relaxed. It's not as you said, it just makes you and so they give me a shot in the butt and I kiss my wife and she goes back out. They told her they would keep her you know informed, the doctor comes over and says, you have any last questions? And kind of being a jokester, and I say yeah how much weight will I lose? You know by giving a kidney and he goes sorry, after we squeeze all the juice out of it's only like, you know, six ounces or something like that. Oh no, okay. So they wheel me into surgery. Have you ever had surgery, have you had anesthesia where they've knocked you out before?
Rob Konrad: Yes, I did.
Harold Mintz: That's crazy stuff. You know, I share that story. It's not like sleep, is it?
Rob Konrad: Yeah it's like you'll be ready usually the way they do in Switzerland is you start counting like a date a second. That's let's get going. It's got a little bit cold. Count backwards from 10 to 10, 9 and you are out. And then you wait.
Harold Mintz: They tell you to count from three backwards and you're not going to get to zero. Right? Here's a question when 10, 9 right before you went out did you to taste something. Did you have a flavor?
Rob Konrad: Metallic flavor.
Harold Mintz: I've heard people tell me cherry, metallic, I had garlic. It's kind of weird. I'm not sure how that manifests. Okay, so I am out and the next thing you know, it's not like waking up from sleep. For me, I blink my eyes and when I open my eyes from a blink, I was already in the recovery room and I think I woke up in the middle. I was like, I think I was talking to my wife when I woke up. I don't remember waking up but I remember when I started thinking I was talking and I'm like, what the hell am I saying? I just woke up but and so at this point in the story, I wake up from surgery, I'm now in my room that night, have zero pain. I've got so much, you know, drugs in me that I'm feeling pretty good actually and the phone rings and I pick it up and I say hello. And it's the lady in charge of the experimental program. And she said, look, I'm not supposed to tell you anything about the recipient. You can't know anything. They put us in two separate hospitals so that our families wouldn't accidentally meet. The separate you. But I can tell you a little bit if you want to know. I went sure. She said well, it's a woman. She's about my age. She's an accountant who lives in Springfield, Virginia, which was five minutes from where I work every day. They said she has a husband and two kids. And then they said – they're telling me this and I remember I feel zero pain. I'm feeling like holy shit that's a good story. That that's all good. Here's the best part, they said, when they put your kidney inside of her it instantly started working. No. She said it started peeing up a storm. And I went, is that good? And she said, yeah, that's exactly what it's supposed to do. It started functioning immediately. It's like, wow, that's great. That's really good. So, the hospital that the nurses on our wing knew what I was doing and I think they sent me a steak dinner or something like that. But you know, when under anesthesia you're not eating for a few days. That's just not on your list. It was nice. But I was only in the hospital two days.
Rob Konrad: Okay.
Harold Mintz: I was walking around the first, you know, the next day I was walking around, they force you to walk around. It was uncomfortable. We'll see how much does it hurt. Now, pain for everybody has got a different level of, you know, pain what you think hurts and what I think hurts, it's two different hurts. But for me, I always said yeah, I was uncomfortable. I was really uncomfortable. But I was never in, you know, a stabbing pain that it was like, Oh, my God you know, it wasn't that. It hurt. And it lasted, I wasn't back to normal probably for about six weeks, maybe maybe eight. But every day, I got better. Every day the next you know, the next day was nowhere wasn't as bad as the day before. And so I keep coming back to – how much could it hurt that you wouldn't do this? I mean, how much does it really? So, for me, after six or eight weeks, I was better. And then we got the phone call. The phone call is, hey how are you feeling? It's great. I feel great. You know if both the donor and the recipient agreed to meet you can meet because they'd like to meet you and your family. So what would you do? Do this with me for a minute? Do you want to meet them? If you did this?
Rob Konrad: Definitely. Definitely. I would know.
Harold Mintz: Okay, that's a quick answer. That's tell me why. What are you thinking that made you say that ‘definitely'?
Rob Konrad: I guess it's coming back to to the little bit of selfishness and the whole thing is what what happened to my kidney? It might be with someone else but no, I gave my kidney, I risked my life for someone so I would love to know who that is and and now as you said, probably I would love to hear a great story and no, not meet that asshole but meet that nice little lady, that was going through my mind at least.
Harold Mintz: Yeah, it's like reading a book. You want to read the last chapter, right? You take you made the story this far, let's, let's see where it goes. So I was thinking that also. But when when the rubber hit the road. And they asked me I responded, no. I said, I'm going I'm going take it. And they were, they were great. They said, ‘We understand your decision and we'll pass it along.'
Rob Konrad: Why did you say no?
Harold Mintz: Okay. So again, we know that we know the end of the story. But at the time I didn't know it was going to have happily ever after. At the time. I was thinking so far this story is a great story with cheerleaders and cupcakes, and all the way through movies on planes and donating and peeing up a storm. It's a good, good story. It can't get any better for me, it couldn't get any better. But it could get worse. If we meet, here's my fear. My research had told me that there was a high probability the person who received my kidney is black, African American.
Rob Konrad: Yeah black, okay.
Harold Mintz: It's a high probability because in the Washington DC area, there's a higher propensity for diabetes and other kidney related diseases. So here's my fear. What happens when we finally meet and this person looks at me and goes, “ooh…”. I probably wouldn't. But wouldn't that screw up the story? Wouldn't that be just a pain that I didn't do this for somebody to say, thank you. That's not it at all. I wanted the results of what it could do for that family, that person. And so I said, no, because I'd rather not know what's behind the curtain than find something less good behind the curtain. As I said, they respected my decision and a few days later, they reached back out to me and they said, we just want to pass along the message. We told the recipient what you said, and they have a message for you. They said, they don't want anything. They they just want to meet your family and say, thank you. So I spoke with my wife and we quickly said, yeah, okay, let's do it. So three months exactly to the day after surgery, they held a – I'll call it a press conference. It was in the office, it was in the conference room of the people that put this thing together. And they told me that, yeah, the press would be in there, and she and her family would be in there before us. So here I am. It's my wife and I, my mom and my son are walking down a hallway and I know on the other side of that doorway is my kidney and – before surgery, was I nervous? Not a bit. We asked so many questions. But walking down that hallway. Yeah, I was nervous. I was more than nervous. And the door opens up, and there's, you know, some flashes and everything fuzzed out. I don't see any of those people that are standing there. There's doctors and but I see this tiny lady standing in the middle of the room. Black woman carrying a big bouquet of flowers. I know that that's got to be her. The second thing I noticed is I'm 6'5. I'm very tall. What is 6'5 in centimetres?
Rob Konrad: Probably 195.
Harold Mintz: So people understand. I'm not short, I'm the opposite of short. I'm a little too tall. And she's tiny. And it's just how things work right. Tall. Short. She's probably the most serious Christian I've ever met. I question the big ‘Gs' existence. She kind of whispers she's you know, wasn't speaking. Plus, there's a reason for it. I'm happy to talk all the time, no problem. We're just opposites physically, spiritually in every possible way you can measure and yet that day we first met, we sat down at the table and for about two hours we shared with each other – how did we intersect? How did our lives put us together here? You know what I told her I've shared with her what I just shared with you about cupcakes and that story. And she and her husband shared with us just a hard story, having gotten out of Ethiopia and being tortured in prison and sickness, death approaching, out of the blue we find a kidney you know it's a… I have nothing but positive perspective on my story. She lives hell for 12 years, 50 surgeries I mean bad things but as soon as they got the kidney you know three months before they said the day she got the kidney everything changed. Her health rebounded instantly and so you look at these two as different as they can possibly be people that our families had been thrown together as we're now a family we're not two different families we are connected in obvious ways. It's good. People hear the story and somebody who might hear, watch, you know, our conversation – they're going to have the wrong impression of me. They're going to think what a nice guy and yeah, of course it's nice and that was a good thing, but people hear the story and it's – nobody's that nice. Nobody's that person, that's my favorite part of the story. I tell people, “I'm normal just like you and with we do good things, we do some bad things.” We're normal people and it's not some special guy did this, it's a normal person who did this. I encourage people to ask questions. It's dangerous because you're going to get answers that might freak you out. But I've got a folder on my desk of people that I've met who have reached out to me and shared with me that I'm one of the breadcrumbs that led them to donate to someone they know, something they didn't know, a friend, they come in all shapes you know and at the time in my life as those little breadcrumbs are picked up and put in my pocket you don't know it's a big deal, you don't know it's a milestone of some sort. It's these things that – these tiny things – but enough eventually.
Rob Konrad: When we first talked you mentioned that there were a couple of crazy coincidences between the two of you.
Harold Mintz: So, first coincidence when they told me she lived in Springfield. Okay, as I said I worked in Springfield, so that was… could have been there. Then she, I said where do you work? And she told me where she worked. It's directly across the highway from where I am. I can see her building from my building. Washington is not a small place. Now here's the good one. 17 years before surgery, I don't even know what a kidney does at that point. I'm not thinking kidneys, I'm not thinking donation. 17 years before that I lived in an apartment building in Alexandria Virginia with a high school friend. It's a 17 storey building actually, and we discovered, when I met Jeanette, that's the lady's name who has my kidney. When we met we discovered we didn't live in the same city, we didn't live on the same street, we lived in the same apartment building as each other, at the same time as each other. Even now when I tell you that I get a tingle going.
Rob Konrad: So you were neighbors?
Harold Mintz: It's quite possible I lived there for two years, it's quite possible that we were in the elevator together. I mean it's how does that happen?
Rob Konrad: That is crazy.
Harold Mintz: You know most of my friends go wow that's a coincidence and a lot of my friends look at me and go that's – that's not a coincidence that's a bigger hand at play. And I go yeah, I don't think so. But a great piece of this fun story.
Rob Konrad: Amazing. Crazy. What was your very first thought when you went to that room and and saw her? What was the first thing that popped up in your head?
Harold Mintz: She was tiny. And I was thinking – remember I said kidney is about the size of your fist? Harold is sporting – I am almost a two. Okay. And my first thought was, how did the doctors cram my two fister inside that tiny lady. And this is kind of cool. So when you give someone your kidney, I think that gives you the right to ask anything you want. So I said, can I see where … you back? She turns to the side and here you know, this is what our backs suppose to she's got I can see a little bump out of my kidney in it. That's my kidney right there. I think. I think that's great. And I also asked her – I come from a Jewish family and Jewish food is, you know, I grew up with that. So as a joke I was just joking. I said, so, you like corn beef sandwiches now? And she looked at me like, what are you talking about? You know, I was kind of thinking maybe that she has my kidney, she's going to like the same things I like. But I think that flooded to the ground. That wasn't very funny. But I cracked up at it so.
Rob Konrad: Okay. Did you feel relieved when you saw her?
Harold Mintz: Well, I was relieved when I knew she was healthy because if you go back to the beginning of the story, that was the idea is to help somebody not have to say goodbye to a loved one, you know, that you could you know… When dad died, there was nothing we could do to fix him. The parts on the shelf issue? That we can do something about, and so it just seemed right, seemed appropriate, seemed good.
Rob Konrad: Hypothetically, if she died on the operating table together with your kidney?
Harold Mintz: Yeah. Sad.
Rob Konrad: That's the worst possible outcome of the whole story.
Harold Mintz: Of course. It got – not wasted, but it didn't give somebody the life it was intended to. So it would have been a disappointment without a question. But that's part of what the day one, that's part of what the psychiatrist goes through. What happens if it doesn't work? What happens if they die? What happens if you never meet them? Yeah, these are all things that were taught to me day one, and you don't know unless you're in this situation, right? How are you going to react? What are you going to say? What are you going to do? I had a happily ever after so, I didn't have to contend with that but I'd like to think I'd be disappointed but okay with it.
Rob Konrad: Okay. And we didn't talk about your wife yet and your wife, Susan I think it's her name is in the room with you and here right over there. What did what did she say about it? What was her first reaction?
Harold Mintz: She will be just for a second. Because I'm asked that often, and I give my response. But when I'm asked that question, she's not always in the room. But now she is. Have a seat real quick. Rob, Susan. Susan, Rob.
Susan: Hi. How are you?
Rob Konrad: Hello. How are you? Nice to meet you.
Susan: Nice to meet you as well.
Rob Konrad: So what's your first reaction?
Susan: Well, at first, I didn't think that he would be approved. So I said, go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead. He'll never make it. But when it came right down to it. Well, it's not my body.That was the decision. That's such a personal decision that I couldn't be the one to stand in the way of that.
Rob Konrad: Okay. Okay. Did you think about, you know, what if I need that kidney? What if our child needs that kidney? What if I you know my brother or sister whatever needs that kidney?
Susan: You know, it goes through your mind but you know, a lot of things can happen between now and maybe, you know, so you have to kind of live with the decisions that you want to make every day to improve someone else's life, your life.
Harold Mintz: That's going to be the name of my book by the way ‘Between now and maybe' I like that. That's ours, we got that.
Rob Konrad: So would you have allowed her to give her kidney?
Harold Mintz: Absolutely not. Now, I don't control her.
Rob Konrad: Seriously.
Harold Mintz: I'm not laughing. She can do what she wants. I'm not her. But it wouldn't have had my blessing. No way. No way.
Rob Konrad: Why not?
Harold Mintz: Well, you know what, there's a 1 in 3000 chance she's not going to wake up from that surgeon's table. You know, it's not worth, it's not worth the risk. Yeah, but somebody needs it. Yeah, but somebody else help. So why do I…? Why do I have… because I can. I can't explain it. Easy for me. Not easy for her.
Susan: Well, not easy for me if it would be not easy for you.
Harold Mintz: Okay. From here to maybe. Yeah. Yeah. You just don't know.
Rob Konrad: What did you feel Susan when he was wheeled away and on the operation table?
Susan: Nervous, nervous. But we've spoken to the doctors and gotten all the information and the doctor had done that particular operation. You know, many, many times. So you just kind of have to, you know, we were in the best hospital in the city in Georgetown University Hospital. So you got to have the, you know, hope and pray for the best and hope that they know what they're doing. We'd gone with statistics also. Yeah, not so much that 1 in 3000 but the you know, with the doctor's statistics.
Rob Konrad: This would have been a massive concern for myself. I mean, 1 in 3000 is is yes it's way more likely that everything goes well and not wrong. But but still there's no…
Susan: I kind of question that statistic. I'd want to see what all the parameters are, and who was included in that? Why were they going into surgery? If you're going into surgery generally speaking, it's for a reason other than that you're healthy and giving. I have to see that statistic on healthy people going to give a you know a kidney or bone marrow or part of their liver or something like that little quotes on. They didn't have a whole lot of those statistics at the time.
Harold Mintz: True okay,
Rob Konrad: So what what do you think now about your husband? Do you feel he's a hero?
Susan: I have heard the story so many times. But it's interesting that so many other people have donated because of his story, that they've heard or seen or read about and there are just how many 10, 20 people that he knows of that have given directly because of the story. So it is the the domino, and it is a good thing when you know that it's having that impact on people that maybe if they can't give themselves to someone else, it makes it normal. It makes it not outside of a… that makes it not crazy.
Harold Mintz: I like that.
Rob Konrad: You had, you still have a kid but your child was 10 years old at the time?
Harold Mintz: I think so.
Susan: Something like that nine years nine, ten, yeah.
Rob Konrad: Did you ever think what if something happens? Would we ever be able to cope with that because of another person?
Harold Mintz: I have a letter that I wrote a couple of days before surgery that I put in my sock drawer before surgery that starts out if you're reading this, I'm sorry.
Susan: Luckily, I didn't have to read that letter. I think, at this point, if something happened, and we had to look, you know, back and say, Oh, we should have Oh, you know, I don't even know if we checked blood types anyway, at that particular point in time to see if.
Harold Mintz: We had to because we had a child together, they make sure the blood plays nicely.
Susan: Yeah but we have we have different blood types. So I'm not even sure what Shai's blood type is.
Harold Mintz: I know, Shai ‘s is O positive, same as mine. So the question is, could I've given one to my child if he needed one? And the answer is, I would have. The same thing I told my younger brother, who's a diabetic, Hey, what are you giving your kidney for? I may need it tomorrow. And I always say the same. If you need one tomorrow. I'll get you one tomorrow. But somebody needs it today. And we'll cross that bridge if we ever see it.
Rob Konrad: Okay.
Susan: Plus he has two sons.
Harold Mintz: There you go.
Susan: That's the reason you have two right. Body parts.
Rob Konrad: Okay, okay.
Rob Konrad: What do people tell you? I mean, you I'm sure you've received letters, letters, you've received a lot of people approaching and reaching out to you, what do people tell you?
Susan: There always will be.
Harold Mintz: You know, it's interesting – just a snapshot. Most people I know, you know, were wonderful, supportive and asking lots of questions as, as they probably should. But we also, I received some, some hate mail after there was a picture of us Gennet being an Ethiopian woman is black skinned, I'm lighter color yeah not and it was on the cover of a local magazine, a national magazine, national magazine and it was and so they wrote to our home address a letter that basically said, you know, bad things, you know, how, how could you? And I laughed at it. And then Susan goes, what are you laughing at? They know our address. And I was like, yeah. So most people wonderful but there was a couple aberrations that kind of shocked us.
Rob Konrad: There's always someone who doesn't, isn't happy. I mean, if you could give away free money in cash, and they would say, ohh.
Susan: And this was before the advent and the explosion of social media. Can you imagine now?
Rob Konrad: Yeah.
Rob Konrad: So we talked about the issue of assumed consent and how it's different in different countries. So also in Switzerland it's the same you have, it's assumed that you do not give consent unless you explicitly do. So what you need to do here is you need to register ahead of time, otherwise, all your relatives might decide for you. But usually, if you want to donate yourself, then you have to register, they've got to ask you a couple of questions.
Harold Mintz: Do you know what that website is? Can you say it? Did you know what in Switzerland what the?
Rob Konrad: I can give it to you. I have my – see, I have my little cheat sheet. No, actually, I went to donate blood yesterday. So I have everything in here.
Harold Mintz: Is that a coincidence? Or did you do that on purpose because of this conversation?
Rob Konrad: Well, actually, it was the first time in a year that I went. I didn't go for a year and after we talked, I checked and I said, okay, when's the next time I can donate again. And it was like yesterday. So I said, that's a good reason to go again. I mean, I donated many times in the past, but then sometimes life happens, and then you don't go and then… This is my little part that I can do in the whole.
Harold Mintz: Since we know each other and we're now personal each other. How old are you?
Rob Konrad: I am 36.
Harold Mintz: Okay. You're a 36 year old guy from Switzerland. How many times in your life do you think you've donated blood approximately?
Rob Konrad: Not too many, probably 15 times I would say.
Harold Mintz: Okay, that seems like an awful lot to me compared to a normal American. Is it common in Switzerland for people to do that? Is it normal?
Rob Konrad: I'm always surprised to know like and I yes, I went again after a year or so or even a bit more. Every time I go the same thing goes through my mind. It's so amazing if you think who else is going to give blood with me. Who else is going to take their time? In Switzerland you don't receive anything so it's it's that way you get you get free cake and coffee. That's that's in. And some countries I think in Germany, you get financial reimbursement but in Switzerland you don't get anything so every time I enter those it's usually like a big gymnasium where they just set up everything and then you go through all the checks and then the other the whole process and I always think it's amazing you have this amazing mix of people. You have farmers because I live in a rural area, you have lots of farmers like with dirty hands and everything and they come in their working clothes, you have bankers line there, you have women, you have a man, you have big guys, small guys. It always amazes me that that's for a brief moment in time, like all these people come together to, to give something just because they can. And it's always like, gives me a shiver if I'm lying there for.
Harold Mintz: That's perfect Rob, but I got to tell you, you giving blood yesterday to someone you don't know and me doing what I did you know, that's on the same string, right? That's not a different string. It's a couple inches further down the string. That's the same thing, dude.
Rob Konrad: But to answer your question, I don't think it's that common. So, the figures on the website of the Swiss, it's actually the Swiss Red Cross who coordinate everything. And there's a yeah, blood donation organization in Switzerland that does it as well. And the thing is, it's not even in Switzerland, like you have to have different, you have to register for every different place that you go to, for every state that you go to. There's no central organization so you have to have a few of them actually, if you go which is a bit of a pain. Sign up every time and then you are new donor every time so that's known. I travel a lot. So that's I have a bunch of these, but it's around 5% of the population apparently, that's gives to 95% to receiving.
Harold Mintz: Well, I think it's great. I give blood regularly. It gives me the same – someone needs it, I won't know them but I know someone's using it. They don't go to waste. And it puts things in perspective. If somebody needs the blood or a kidney… Yeah, I stubbed my toe today or a bad thing happened at work today it's bad but I'm healthy, my wife's healthy, my son's healthy. I don't have those issues so it kind of puts things in perspective pretty quickly as you know, what's important.
Susan: How many kidney donations are there in Switzerland per year?
Harold Mintz: 1500
Rob Konrad: No, no, no, I think 1500 donors are waiting for someone at any point I think.
Susan: Recipients are waiting.
Rob Konrad: Recipients, recipients. I think there are 500 donors because what I read is that 1000 people are waiting without having any donor at any time so.
Susan: Do you have matching or if I give to you and you give to her, he gives and you have those kinds of chains there as well for people that might need?
Rob Konrad: Not that I'm aware of. Not that I'm aware of to be honest. I would need to…
Susan: So that's the way that it has gone in the United States now. More people are raising their hands to give maybe not to someone that they don't know but to someone that they do know and they're not a match and so either hospitals or other organizations will do that matching and those chains of giving.
Harold Mintz: They call them paired exchanges.
Rob Konrad: How does it work because you said that there's this waiting, this basically that has some criteria and get shuffled around so if there's this waiting list which is like the ultimate authority and let's say we have friends that we have family and I know you need a kidney then me giving you that kidney but basically make us jump the waiting list is that is?
Harold Mintz: Since we know each other that's called a direct donation and it's not in the same category as usually they come from deceased people who signed your driver's license those are allocated to the who needs it first but if you work with somebody, you want to give to your wife, you want to get to your next door neighbor direct donations are allowed without that.
Rob Konrad: Okay, okay, and now I would need to look into that, how it works here, but we don't have enough. And it's the same with blood donations we don't in summertime, not right now. Now it's the winter season, skiing season, a lot of accidents as well. So they they actually just had a newspaper article published saying that they need more blood donation at the moment, because they're running out of it. It's holiday season, people are going away. So in the summer, it's the same, they have a lack of blood, basically. And what I found is, it's surprisingly difficult to get people to donate. So the places that I worked with you know I worked with some larger corporations at some point in time, and they sometimes do this blood runs, you know, in the office and even if you go ahead, guys, it's like half an hour and it's nothing bad. It's just a little note. You get freaked then that's, it. It's hard to get people to do it because now people will come up with all kinds of excuses like, now, I never did it before and then I don't like it.
Harold Mintz: Go to the reason for all those excuses. What's the reason for those excuses? It's because there's a fear. Fear, whether it's a fear of the needle or its blood makes a lot of people feel you know, queasy. I understand why they say no. You know, if you got your ear pierced, and you've never tried to give blood, try it once. If you don't like it, don't do it again. But I always encourage people to try it at least once because, yeah, it's not like, it feels great but I mean, it doesn't really hurt that much. It's a tiny thing. But try once.
Don't want to do it again. Don't do it again. Good place.
Rob Konrad: Thank you, Susan. Thanks for sharing. Yeah, it's difficult. Now I can understand people, I kind of see why people don't go and I myself, even though I try to go, like I said, now, I didn't go for quite a while now. And I could have gone and now sometimes you cannot go for reasons that are valid, like you have a cold or something which, which excuses you or you are on medicine or have whatever you know there's some, some in Switzerland they're quite strict in terms of what makes you.
Harold Mintz: The countries you have visited. Sure, there's a whole list of…
Rob Konrad: Exactly. If you went to Africa in the past six months, if, you know, you lived in the UK for more than half a year in the past, like before, 86 or something like that, if you're in Switzerland if you are gay, for example, it's one reason that you not allowed to which there was a big there was a big discussion about this, and there was a big push back, rightfully so because people say, hey, just because I'm gay, I live in a live in a stable relationship and I haven't changed my sexual partner in 20 years, why should I not be able to donate blood. There was a bit of discussion here, but yeah, and, and yeah, sometimes just things happen. But it's not as easy so I can, I can only imagine that's not being a live donor is so much more.
Harold Mintz: It's not so much more. It's kind of the same thing. It's, you know, a little bit more of a risk numbers wise. But the rationale behind it is same thing. Here's a medical thing I can do to help somebody else and I'll never see the result. I love that. It's in the same club as kidneys are, you know. I've always said you don't have to do what being a living donor that's great if you know somebody but a group of people that have donated to people that they don't know. It's still odd, it's still different. But if everybody like a lot of places in Europe, you know, did that presumed consent, where if everybody signed their driver's license here in the United States, there wouldn't anybody be waiting on the list. There'd be plenty of deceased donor, you know, organs, that'd be great.
Rob Konrad: Yeah, and I think they should change it but then again, it's not easy to change the law for that and people tried here in Switzerland as well, they failed doing it unfortunately, as far as I know. So they tried collecting signatures for it and did not reach enough I think, in total you needed 100,000 signatures and last time I checked, they didn't have enough so it's a shame. It's a shame. It wouldn't take much and it could change a lot for a lot of people.
Harold Mintz: Well, you know, if somebody needs a kidney here, there's a limited number of ways if you or I or our loved ones needed one, what do you do? What do you do that works? So social media helps a little bit. And there's old school ways, actually people write. It happens a lot here, they'll write on the windows of their car, wife needs kidney, O positive, then a phone number. And those kinds of things. If you see it, you might call. If you don't share your story, if the people don't know it, how can they call? How can they help? So it's interesting the way you know, people are reaching out now. I've always said if somebody that I know needed one, I make the assumption that I know enough people that would probably raise their hand. I hope that's true. I don't know but it feels like it is.
Rob Konrad: Coming back to statistics. Statistically, it still doesn't add up.
Harold Mintz: I know, I know. You're right.
Rob Konrad: You probably feel you feel that way, but..
Harold Mintz: It took me a few years but eventually, Jeanette's husband my recipient's husband's named Siguy and I, for years, I didn't ask, but I was thinking how is it that he or somebody in their family or somebody in their large church hadn't raised their hand? Or if they had, how come they hadn't found a kidney for her yet? I'm O positive and I'm not special. There's a lot of O positive blood types out there. Why had – she was on death's doorstep. How is it possible that nobody raised their hand? And so, eventually, a few years after we had met in our families and spent time becoming family, I asked. I asked him. I said did anybody in your church ever – I didn't want to point my finger at him, I said did anybody in your church ever try to help? How was that? Why is that? You know, I don't want to be accusatory, it's not me. And he said fear, people were scared or it's not, it's not common in the Ethiopian community. And so I heard but I still have a hard time coming to an understanding with that. What wouldn't you do for your loved one?
Rob Konrad: Could he have donated?
Harold Mintz: No. Different blood type, different person.
Rob Konrad: The match between organs, is it's just the blood type that's or something else?
Susan: I have something to say about that. Not necessarily about this specific case. But I have done some reading about some of the especially in California there was a law about was up for vote about, you know, it is very confusing, but it had to do with kidney dialysis centers. And there I think maybe two major companies that own all the dialysis centers in the United States. And for some reason I started talking to people within those centers, and they people that are on dialysis are not approached that often within those centers about transplant. So they don't have that much information about transplantation for them to be able to then share with family members. We're making assumptions that it's something that is common and well known and that there is a process and this is how you get on the list and this is and it's good to have a kidney as opposed to going through dialysis two or three days a week. But that's not from my understanding, is not the approach that is taken by many of the dialysis centers. That's money in their pocket and that money is also subsidized by the American government. I mean it's a whole thing, dialysis centers and, and how they are paid for by the government started back in the seventies until Nixon or whatever so there's a whole political and lack of education purposefully.
Rob Konrad: And it's sad but it's true I mean the patient that you healed, is no longer a patient.
Rob Konrad: And that's, that's a big, big, big problem.
Susan: That's a whole other discussion. Goodbye.
Harold Mintz: Your blood type is one. There's something and I'm not a doctor but there's something called antigens. We all have six of them their markers in our blood, and it used to be you needed five out of six to do a transplant, six out of six you are a twin. Five out of six, you're a good match. Then they got four out of six needed to match and they fill in the rest with pharmaceuticals. I've heard you can now even do it when the blood types aren't the same as long as the recipient eats a certain anti rejection pills, for his or her life. But the more technology and medicine moves forward, it's easier, it's easier to put people that aren't exact matches together.
Rob Konrad: Just coming back to to what your wife said, it's also something that my wife mentioned yesterday when we talked about our conversation and with just with blood donation, she said, I know that you donating blood, but you're pretty much the only one that I know personally, like, from our, from our family, no one donates on a regular basis and why if you go to the doctors, why don't you get like little flyer in your hand and say, look a whole lot on donating blood. So no one is actively reaching out. I mean, then that could be the same with at least in the places where you go to where there is medical staff around that is informed about this. Why are they not reaching out to people and encouraging people to donate blood to become organ donors?
Harold Mintz: They are, they just don't have a big enough budget to do it so that it's as often enough or as frequently enough as it's needed. When you gave blood yesterday, had you signed up? Or did you see the gymnasium with the sign that said give blood today?
Rob Konrad: I'm on a mailing list so I'm receiving emails. If I see them, or if not just you know, if I don't they just end up in my yeah, I'll read that later folder.
Harold Mintz: Yeah.
Rob Konrad: And they do sometimes have signs up out there but no. I'm a marketer so I know how much we are bombarded with marketing messages all day so that little tiny blood donation ad is going to win against the 18,000 contents we have every day. No chance.
Harold Mintz: Well, if for me, I give blood regularly as well. They put you on the mailing list here, the Red Cross puts you on their mailing list. They email you, they know that you can give blood every seven weeks and they reach out to me electronically every seven weeks. My wife and I live it's not very often that there is a blood drive close. I've got to drive 20-30 minutes to find the blood drive. So I sign up and sometimes I do that. But more often than not, I'm driving by a place and I see the sign and I'll pull in and I'll just donate that way.
Rob Konrad: Okay. And in Switzerland, you can always donate every 3 months as a male and every 4 months as a female.That's the recommendations.
Harold Mintz: We got 2 months here.
Rob Konrad: That's a bit shorter. Well coming back to your to your story how did the family of what's her name I can I can ever remember Jeanette, how did Jeanette's family react to you? I mean, did they carry you around for a year and wave your face with, you know, palm leaves?
Harold Mintz: Though it's funny, that's a great question. Like all ethnicities, family is important and we truly felt like we became part of their family, not extended family, but family. Early on we were invited to an Ethiopian wedding, I think it was a cousin, a cousin's, kid or something like that in DC and we discovered a number of things that we can number one, the wedding invitation says two o'clock. So my wife and I, what would you do? We show up at 1:30-1:45. And we get there and the church is empty. And we go, it's empty and we look at the invitation to make sure that the date and the time are correct. And yeah, it's today, we are at the right place. And at you know, two o'clock a couple people walked in, we went I mean, it's an Ethiopian church. So first of all, we're the only Caucasians with no, and said, is there a wedding today? And they went, yes. Okay, Where's everybody? Well, they're not here yet. Oh, and so we sat down and of course, over the course of next hour, hour and a half the place started filling up and afterwards, you know, at the reception, we went up to Jeanette and Siguy and said, was there a time change that we didn't know about? And he goes, no, it's just Ethiopian time. Everything starts a couple hours later than, you know. The invitation said two o'clock. Oh, but we, we're family. You ask what their family was like. We're treated so close as family that those weddings that were invited to it was a, you know, everything was meal centered. Early on, they were giving us gifts, and we had to say, you're making us uncomfortable. This is – don't give me a watch, let's find food as a common ground where we can appreciate each other's cultures and celebrate as a family around a table as opposed to buying things. So it's wonderful and as I said, that's what introduced us to Ethiopian food. My son and I love, we can't get enough of that.
Rob Konrad: And did her taste change, though?
Harold Mintz: No. Not really.
Rob Konrad: No cravings for Jewish specialties?
Harold Mintz: Boy, do I wish that was the case but no.
Rob Konrad: Okay. I see. You mentioned you are not religious or not really religious.
Harold Mintz: I was raised by two Jewish parents who raised my brothers and I. We went to temple every, you know, Sunday morning. I was even bar mitzvahed when I was 13 years old. But religion doesn't play a part in my life. It's not, it's not a significant part. It's more of Jewish food than it is Jewish prayer.
Rob Konrad: Okay. Okay, good. So I still can't get over the fact how someone can do that and I think it's absolutely amazing and I know that you don't feel like like you're someone special but what I noticed, having this conversation with quite a few people now is that, people who do outstanding things, who do exceptional and extraordinary things often don't think they're extraordinary. That's part of what makes them extraordinary I think. And it's funny, a few weeks back, I had a conversation with a guy named James Harrison, I don't know if you've heard of him. So, he's an Australian guy and he's called ‘The Man with the Golden Arm' and he's the world record holder in blood donations. So, he donated 1800 times. Basically, every two weeks since he was, since the sixties. And what the crazy thing about the whole thing is he has very specific marker in his blood and when two people mate and have a child and their blood types don't add up. And then there's, there is a big chance that usually that kid will have either will either die in the womb, or will have massive birth defects. And up until the sixties, there was nothing to do about it. And then they discovered there is this one, this one technical term for it, it's the fact that that you can give a little bit of that antibody, basically, yes, because it will develop, basically the immune system will adapt to it, and then it's fine. And he has a very specific kind of factor in his blood and it's estimated that he saved 2.4 million babies because for the past 60 years, he's been donating and he got into an accident when he was young, he had one lung removed and he received blood when he was 16. I think 13 liters of blood from the blood transfusions. And he said, look, I've been given a second chance and as soon as I'm old enough, I'm going to donate and he has been donating ever since. He had to stop a couple of years back because in Australia, when you get to, I think 81 you have to stop for health reasons so he cannot do it. But he would have done it forever. And it's amazing that someone and I also asked him look, did you ever think you know, I have had enough of that? Or did you ever think of stopping? Or do you consider yourself extraordinary? Because you saved like, literally in every Australian child with that, that didn't have that antibody. Since the sixties in every Australian child is a little bit of of James Harrison.
Harold Mintz: That's tremendous.
Rob Konrad: And his blood has been in every single dose of medicine they've given to, to hundreds of thousands of mothers. And he said, no, it's just it's, of course, I have to do it. Why would I not do it? I mean, it's the same like you. You saved life and you could just have said I'd rather go to a football game tonight.
Harold Mintz: I think that's almost full circle on the conversation. One of the first things we spoke about was, why would somebody do that? Why would somebody be compensating for something you know, and just a quick recap is those things that happen in my life that brought me that I say, led me to that table were insignificant, that ended up being extremely significant. The big one was my father passing at an early age. But every single one of those little stories, I always say, we all see them every day, you just got to notice them. And the story, our particular story is great, because she's healthy today. As of now, it's been about 19 years.We celebrated 19 years last month on the anniversary and she's healthy and she's good. And I'm healthy and I'm good. It's great. It's a really good story. So I figured I share it and I more than appreciate you asking, reaching out and asked me to share it because somebody who's listening, they're picking up a breadcrumb that's good.
Rob Konrad: You never know. And someone else I've been talking to a few weeks back put it in a very nice way, that, at every point in your life basically, you can make two decisions. And often these decisions are just tiny little bits. They are very close to each other but along the way, the change gets bigger. And you never know that, that little decision that you make today will at some point in the far far far away future have drastic impact. And then I think that's what it's all about. And I think that's also what this is all about. And then hopefully someone who's watching this will say, hey, let's donate some blood. Let's you know put myself on the organ donors list and save somebody in the future and then I think that's definitely worthwhile.
Harold Mintz: If any of the people that are watching are curious to meet Jeanette there's a 15 minute documentary that we could send people to that they can watch for free. It's called or go to www.haroldskidney.com and you can just click on watch the film. And when it says if you want to be a donor, they're not asking for your money, they're asking if you want information about organ donation. So feel free to click.
Rob Konrad: Definitely and it's very interesting. It's very fascinating. It summarizes the whole thing in a very short amount of time but it's really, really nice and you get to see all the pictures that he talked about when he first met and you younger, with little bit of a little bit less of a mustache, but
Harold Mintz: It looked like that except it was it was not great but
Rob Konrad: I have to ask about the mustache. Is that something you you're getting a lot of questions about..?
Harold Mintz: My mustache is older than you. My mustache celebrated its 42nd birthday last summer. So it's been there a long time. I'm sure a lot of people. Look, I believe I've looked so good.
Rob Konrad: And I think I've asked all the questions, I'm sure that there are many more questions that I could ask but I think you're an amazing person and I know you don't think the same way but you are.
Harold Mintz: I appreciate you saying so.
Rob Konrad: And you've influenced a lot of people so I will leave it with that. And there's just two questions that I'm always asking anyone at the end of any conversation. The first question is, this is a series of interviews with extraordinary people who make a change in the world and who inspire others and who motivate others to do great things. Who do you consider to be someone extraordinary?
Harold Mintz: That's a long list.
Rob Konrad: Shoot.
Harold Mintz: My son. It's easy to be impressed. I see him every day. My son started out this life as my daughter and has transitioned into my son. And it's hard not to watch the ability with which he walks through life with that, with the passion that he carries around every day. That's tremendous. So, that's one that's in front of me every day that I don't take for granted. But it's a long list. There's a lot of people that influenced me.
Rob Konrad: Wonderful. And my last question is and I want to close this conversation with your answer. What's your message to everyone who's, to anyone who's watching or who's listening to this?
Harold Mintz: Pay attention. Everybody's got those breadcrumbs in front of them all the time but you don't see them if you don't notice them. So just pay attention. Go through life looking for it. Look for the fun breadcrumbs, pick them up and put them in your pocket. Spread as much as life can give you.
Rob Konrad: Thank you so much for your time. Really appreciate it, and I hope again anyone who's watching this go ahead, go donate blood, still sign up for the organ donors list and make sure to visit harold'skidney.com.
Harold Mintz: And tell your wife I said, hey.
Rob Konrad: I will do. Thank you very much.
Harold Mintz: Thanks.
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