MAHWAH, N.J. — Carlos Ferman of Mahwah embraced Kenneth V. Furlong of West New York for the first time Friday in Hackensack since giving him a kidney.
“My thing has been wanting to know how Kenneth feels with my kidney,” Ferman told reporters at Hackensack University Medical Center. “He told me I was a hero.”
He could have just as easily hugged Furlong's 23-year-old son, Kenneth, who on the same February day donated a kidney to Ferman’s wife, Debra.
The Fermans and the Furlongs made history at Hackensack Meridian Health System, according to Dr. Larry Melton, its medical director of renal transplants.
The center frequently does living donor transplants.
“This is the first internal exchange transplant that we’ve done,” Melton said. “There are exchange programs in the country where they match up people from different institutions, but we matched this one here within our own institution.”
The two tearful, joyful families lit up a room Friday at the medical center that was filled with extended family members, doctors, and 40-member care team.
“I am eternally grateful to this young man who very selflessly gave me a kidney,” said Debra Furman, 62, as she gazed at her smiling, lanky, red-haired donor.
“You can’t even thank someone for that,” she added. “There aren’t words.”
Kenneth A. Furlong said the reality of what’s happened to the two families hasn’t hit him yet.
“It’s great to see Debra and my dad and Carlos,” he said. “Everybody feels good and everybody gets to keep living and being with their family and that’s truly amazing.”
Debra Ferman, who had been on dialysis for 10 months before the surgery, said she and her husband had amazing recoveries.
As a recipient, she was up and about in three weeks, she said, and back to work at her job in special education in Sloatsburg in April. Today, she said, she feels better than she did 20 years ago.
After donating his kidney to Kenneth V. Furlong, Carlos Ferman said he felt “normal” within a week and was driving in two weeks.
“I didn’t have any concerns about surgery,” said Ferman, 55, who felt very ready to donate because of his lifestyle. He called himself a no-smoking, no-drinking, soccer-playing healthy guy.
After surgery, he said, he took one painkiller pill.
“I did that because they told me to take it,” said Ferman, who hails from Spain. “But I didn’t need it because I didn’t have pain.”
Now, he said, he is an advocate for donation.
“Donating is not what people think it is,” he said. “This is a great hospital. Technology is fantastic. I don’t feel any different than how I felt before.”
There are 5,000 people in New Jersey waiting for a kidney transplant, said Dr. Martin Karpeh, chairman of the department of surgery at Hackensack Meridian.