Kevin P. Aspell may have recently retired from his successful professional career, but he continues to actively serve as a dedicated volunteer to support his community and those most in need.
The Kendall Park resident is currently a member of the Board of Directors for Community Access Unlimited in Elizabeth and a volunteer for the NJ Sharing Network.
The 67-year-old lives his life to the fullest, hiking, golfing and a sports enthusiast. He is often seen feverishly rooting for the Princeton football team.
But many people who know Aspell find it hard to believe that he struggled with serious health issues for much of his life. From the age of 8, he was insulin-dependent diabetic. Still, he played varsity football in high school and college and was a huge sports fan.
He has fought hard over the years to make sure his health complications don’t prevent him from enjoying life with his wife, Marisa, and their sons, Ryan and Evan.
“I used to do peritoneal dialysis so no one at work needed to know and I could still travel on business,” Aspell said. “But over time, I knew I needed a kidney transplant because I felt worse and worse with each passing day.”
Aspell remembers feeling a strong sense of frustration while on the waiting list for a transplant.
“Needing a transplant puts you in a position where, literally, your life depends on someone else,” he said. “It was one of the toughest challenges for me. I always believed that I could cope with whatever was thrown at me. I built a plan and faced adversity. But it’s hard to take charge when your success depends entirely on an organ donated by someone else. “
On three occasions, Aspell went to the Saint-Barnabé medical center to prepare for a transplant, but the kidneys were not compatible. At that point, his wife stepped in to donate one of his own kidneys as a living donor.
“The scariest part for me was when they said, ‘OK, let’s test you,’ because if I’m not compatible then what? Now what do we do? said Marisa Aspell. “It was wonderful when they told us we were a game and we could move forward.”
Kevin Aspell’s successful kidney transplant almost 22 years ago, in December 1999, has made him feel even more grateful and optimistic than ever.
“Thanks to Marisa and the amazing Saint-Barnabé transplant team, I felt like nothing could hold me back,” he said. “I recognized quite quickly that the nausea and exhaustion I was feeling before I had the kidney was gone. “
Then, 10 years ago, in September 2011, Kevin received the gift of life a second time when he underwent a successful pancreas transplant. This time his donor hero was an 18-year-old from Queens who died of a brain tumor.
With his second transplant, Aspell was no longer diabetic and his health was fully restored.
He is eternally grateful to his hero donor for his selfless decision to give his life.
“After I woke up from the operation, the doctor asked me to drink regular apple juice and eat some cookies, and I refused to do so because I was so afraid my blood sugar would rise. “said Aspell. “I remember my family, friends and the medical team laughing at me and assuring me that everything was fine now. It took a little while for me to realize that there was no longer a peritoneal catheter, no more insulin pump, no lack of energy during dialysis and no more hypoglycemia.
Aspell and his happy loved ones are now happy to celebrate his 10 and 22 years of transplant. He is more passionate than ever about supporting the NJ Sharing Network and its vital mission to help educate others about the power of organ and tissue donation and transplantation.
“I recognize that I am now able to enjoy all of the activities and life experiences that I want from my transplants,” said Aspell. “I want to give hope to those on the transplant waiting list and encourage everyone to sign up as an organ and tissue donor to help save lives. Being an organ donor becomes almost intuitive. Everyone should understand that once their life is over, organ donation is an opportunity to help give others a chance to live their lives. It’s just the right thing to do.
According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), nearly 4,000 New Jersey residents are currently awaiting a life-saving transplant, and 1 person in New Jersey dies every three days while waiting for a transplant.
One organ and tissue donor can save eight lives and improve the lives of more than 75 people.
To learn more, get involved, and register as an organ and tissue donor, visit www.NJSharingNetwork.org.
- This information was provided by NJ Sharing Network.