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Vivian on Valentine’s: Celebrating life after kidney transplant

This Valentine’s Day, I celebrated love and life with the woman of my dreams – my wife, Vivian Fried. I asked her to come on the air at Fried On Business to give us an update after her successful kidney transplant some 14 months ago.

It was a wonderful day. Simple, genuine, beautiful.

What a stark difference from two years ago, when, we had our toughest Valentine’s Day ever.

Vivian recounted the story. We had found a kidney donor in New York City. We traveled there in the dead of winter. Vivian had to have two dialysis sessions in a row before the trip, so she’s feeling awful, to put it mildly.

The next day, Viv takes an Uber to the dialysis center near the hospital, but the driver drops her off nearly two blocks away from the destination. So she’s on the street in the freezing cold, carrying all of her gear and asking for directions from strangers.

She finally arrives at the dialysis center for several more hours of testing and then treatment. The deal falls through, however, and the transplant does not go forward.

But the year ended better than we could have imagined when we got word around Thanksgiving time that there was a willing donor – Betty Demartini – right in our backyard in Miami.

So we were able to stay at home, and Betty gave us the gift of life.

“Betty is an exceptional human being. She was going to give her kidney to her aunt, but her aunt didn’t make it. So she decided to give it to me, and I was very lucky,” Viv said.

Betty Demartini is an angel on today’s Earth, there’s no doubt about it. We didn’t know Betty, and she just came out of nowhere. G-d sent her to us, and we got a kidney.

Now, after a kidney transplant, people think that’s the end of the story. Really, it’s just the beginning, Vivian said.

“There’s been a lot of ups and downs. Every day I’m very thankful. And I pray to G-d, ‘Thank you for making me go to the bathroom so much. Thank you for this working kidney,'” she said.

You have to remember, Vivian didn’t pee for more than three years. We used to dream about something that almost all of us take for granted.

“I wake up with a prayer, thanking G-d for my waking up and opening my eyes, going to the bathroom, having a healthy kidney. My husband has been amazing and supportive. Thank G-d for my mom and my beautiful new godson Gabriel Israel, named after my father. These things make me fight so hard that I’m not going to give up,” she said.

“Sometimes I wake up with no energy, but I still see those beautiful people surrounding me and I know that I have to get up and do it.”

Vivian said a highlight of her recovery has been to see her niece, Nikki Fried, sworn in as the new Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

“I tell her strong is the new pretty, because she’s made out of steel,” she said.

There were some close calls on this journey to a successful kidney transplant. Vivian, in fact, hid some of them from me because she knew I needed to concentrate on work. But on more than one occasion her blood pressure dropped so low at dialysis that an ambulance was called. She didn’t go to the hospital. She just prayed and waited. G-d heard those prayers, and she was soon able to drive herself home.

Truth be told, Vivian doesn’t care much for Valentine’s Day. The hype, she said, obscures the purpose.

“To me, Valentine’s Day is not that special. Valentine’s Day is every day. You shouldn’t wait until Valentine’s Day to tell you Mom you love her,” she said.

In some sense, Valentine’s Day might better be called Thanksgiving One, because Vivian is eternally grateful to the hundreds of people who gave financially to support us during this odyssey and who got tested as a potential donor.

She will never forget the kindness of her medical team, her friends and those who became her friends during this journey.

“Thank you for thinking of me, caring for me, loving me. I just want to thank all of you,” she said.

Vivian is so strong. She’s an inspiration to me and everyone around her. We’re hoping that we’ll soon be able to let her appear more often in public and share her story directly.

But until then, we’ll keep using Fried On Business to raise awareness about kidney disease and bring hope to those waiting for the gift of life.

So, Happy Valentine’s Day, Vivian. I love you more than words can say.

Click here to listen to the entire conversation with Vivian Fried.

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