Tuesday, June 16, 2009

My Co-Worker Needs a Kidney

Robert reminded me today that we first met in 1996 or 1997 when I was a consultant working in his department. I was managing a re-engineering project at the time and I doubt that the workers there were particularly happy to see me. (If it were relevant, I would explain that it was not really re-engineering, but that is the easiest way to describe it that most will understand.)

But I really got to know Robert in 2000 when I negotiated my first union contract at the Hospital. I came to Johns Hopkins in 1998 as an employee and moved into the Vice President role in 2000. One month after I was officially appointed to that job, our bargaining union contract expired. I led the Hospital’s negotiation team and Robert was one of the union delegates who “sat across the table” as they say. I remember him being strong, persistent and representing the needs of his fellow union members well. I developed a great respect for him.

After the negotiations were over, I learned that he was also on our employee recognition committee and served as the photographer at all our employee events. In that role, I got to know him even better. He even was the photographer at my assistant’s wedding. On one of my work-days, I shadowed him and we painted a patient room together. That day, he went out of his way to make me feel welcome and to introduce me to as many of his co-workers as possible. I was impressed at how well liked he seemed to be and how many people he knew by name. He is a very quiet, hard-working person. He is liked by everyone – seriously, I don’t know anyone who has ever spoken ill of him.

About two years ago, I didn’t see Robert for a long while. When I did finally run into him in the hallway outside my office, I mentioned that I had missed seeing him around the hospital. He told me that he had been ill. The way I remember the rest of the conversation is that I asked if there was anything I could do. He jokingly said something to the effect of “Only if you have a kidney.” I told him that I happened to have an extra one and that he could have mine. In retrospect, I don’t think he believed me. (I asked him today if he believed me that first day. He said, "Well, I didn't not believe you." Ever the diplomat!)

I went straight to the transplant office and told them I had found my recipient.

Note: Robert gave me his permission to share this part of the story. He even jogged my memory about when we first met. It is important to me not to violate his privacy without his support and in the healthcare world we would not violate the privacy of a patient.


  1. I think what you are doing is incredible! Thanks for sharing the experience with us and for drawing attention to this need. When my son Michael was being treated for leukemia at JHH, I was overwhelmed by the number of folks-- friends and strangers alike-- who signed up to become bone marrow donors. Hopefully your efforts will yield more donors as well!

  2. This sounds like the Pamela I had the pleasure of crossing paths @JHHCG. She a person who is very concern for others. She always try to see how she can make things better. May GOD continue to use you. Blessing to you & Robert. Carla Jones-Chew