Ari Sytner

Discovering the Secret to Happiness: Just Look Inside

Posted by in Kidney Donation, Relationships & Marriage, Stress & Adversity

When it comes to thrill rides or risk taking – I’m the guy that is always off to the side. I am the most risk-averse person you’ll meet. Ironically, however, I voluntarily donated my kidney to a total stranger.

How do I reconcile this enigmatic reality? On the one hand, I’m terrified of needles, but on the other hand, I willingly gave away a vital organ! It makes no logical sense whatsoever!

The answer is simple. It really comes down to gratitude.

When a person looks at what he or she has been blessed with in life, their blessings can either be seen as entitlements or as gifts.

For me, the eternal optimist, I have looked at all that I have been fortunately blessed with in life and realized I did nothing special to warrant so much, including having two healthy kidneys. I was simply born that way. Yet, when I learned that others were dying, fighting for a chance to live, I looked at my second kidney and knew that it was a gift. No longer could I take it granted, rather, I would lovingly share with someone else.

The more I focused on how grateful I was for the many blessings in my life which were given to me for no apparent reason, the more I  was overcome with gratitude, joy, and love. Eventually, I felt compelled to express that gratitude by paying it forward. Thus, giving a kidney became a way in which I could continue to celebrate my own life, by sharing life with others. Today, an amazing single mother of three children enjoys an incredible new life, because of that gift.

As you can read in my book, The Kidney Donor’s Journey, I am not on a crusade to convince people to donate their organs. However, I am a big believer in people living the most enriched and fulfilled lives possible. Gratitude can be the powerful engine to change our own lives if we simply allow it to.

All we have to do is look to our right and left and notice people around us on a daily basis that are suffering. Whether it is a lack of money, friends, or if one is struggling with physical illness, there are countless ways in which we can use the lives and gifts we were blessed with to enrich others.

Believe it or not, prior to donating my kidney, I had never before even donated blood. The thought was just too overwhelming. However, today, my entire perspective has changed. I now walk through life, aware that the answer to another person’s pain and suffering is literally coursing through my veins. What would my life be like if my body could not produce the healthy blood I needed to survive?

Yet, for some reason, I was one of the lucky ones and I can enjoy a virtually unlimited supply of healthy blood. This allows people to donate every 56 days and give life to those undergoing surgery, cancer treatments or battling hereditary blood disorders.

Therefore, the way in which I express my gratitude for my own health is to literally roll up my sleeves and offer a small token of what I have been blessed with. The notion of donating blood, plasma or platelets has now become an important value to me and an expression of my own love for life.

While I still avoid roller coasters, I no longer fear needles. Each and every human being has the capacity to enrich their own lives by helping others. See for yourself how giving is the best way to improve humanity.

How can YOU get involved? Find out at #BeImpulsive.

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Breaking My Silence: A Kidney Donor Speaks Up

Posted by in Blog, Kidney Donation

You’re at Starbucks during your lunch break when you realize you’ve forgotten your wallet at your desk. Feeling embarrassed, you turn to the coworker standing behind you on line and reluctantly ask, “do you mind paying for my coffee today?”

If asking a friend to buy you a coffee can feel utterly embarrassing and uncomfortable, imagine the discomfort for a renal patient who must turn to a friend or neighbor and ask them for a kidney. While the guilt associated with such a request can often be crippling, what choice do they have? For over 100,000 Americans and 4 million people worldwide, this is their reality. The one thing that stands between life and death is putting forth that awkward request in the hopes that a kind stranger will willingly give them a piece of their body.

Yet, kidney patients are not the only ones who struggle to speak up. Five years ago, with no personal connection to kidney donation, I went on a personal journey to explore what was involved. I spent a year learning, contemplating and weighing the risks of kidney donation. The process itself was transformative and I am grateful that at the end of it, I was given the opportunity to share a piece of myself with another person and give her the gift of life.

Ari & Ronit - Kidney Donor & Recipient

Ari and Ronit – Kidney Donor and Recipient

Aside from my immeasurable gratitude for being given the opportunity to save Ronit, a single mother of three children, I still live with my own feelings of shame and guilt when it comes to talking about my kidney donation. I recently conducted an unofficial online poll, asking whether kidney donors should remain humble about their deed, or talk openly about it with others. I was surprised to find that more than 60% of respondents said that kidney donors should remain quiet, as if the act of donation may be a noble one, but it is a private matter and not something to brag about.

However, as a donor, I have already given. I’ve done what I can. Yet, sadly, in the United States alone, on average 12 people day die each while waiting for a kidney. Thus, if my commitment to save one life could be extended to saving many, I feel the need to break my silence and speak up, no matter how uncomfortable or unpopular it may be.

It is for that reason, that I have written The Kidney Donor’s Journey: 100 Questions I Asked Before Donating My Kidney. It is a moving and informative book, aimed at educating and inspiring others to explore the journey of kidney donation. When I first began the process, it was confusing and unclear, and I was completely skeptical. Although, as the year-long journey unfolded, I went through a personal transformation, one that gave me a new perspective on the value of life.

Since kidney patients find it remarkably painful to speak up and ask others for a donation, the goal of breaking my silence is to give them a voice and empower them with a different question – an easier one to ask. Instead, they will now be able to turn to a friend, neighbor or stranger and simply ask, “would you be willing to read a book?”

Currently, no book like it exists, aimed at walking people through the struggles, questions, and answers of the entire process, all through the lens of a skeptical donor. Therefore, by crafting this book as a moving and inspiring roadmap, it has the potential to save countless lives. However, my goal is not to convince people to donate. Instead, I aim to inform and inspire, so that with heightened awareness, more can be done on a global level to help those who are waiting, praying and hoping for the generous gift of life.

Please join me in breaking the silence by ordering your copy and helping spread awareness about this life-saving topic.

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