HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Singer/songwriter Jason Didner performed a New Year’s Eve concert via Zoom on Thursday, Dec. 31 to benefit Hackensack Meridian Hackensack University Medical Center’s Organ Transplant Team.

The Montclair musician was inspired from his own connection to Hackensack’s Transplant Center. In 2015, he donated one of his kidneys to his wife Amy, who was suffering from kidney failure as a result of living with type 1 diabetes for more than 45 years. Three years later, with new medical developments, Amy became the first pancreas transplant recipient at Hackensack University Medical Center. Amy had been diagnosed with diabetes when she was eight years old and faced erratic blood sugars and health challenges her entire life.

“Throughout my teenage years, I suffered from depression because of having to manage this disease and constantly worrying about my sugars," she said. "I just wanted to get rid of my diabetes. When I heard a pancreas transplant would do that, I was very excited."

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The Didners founded Jungle Gym Jam music in 2013, which is and interactive family experience. The duo often performs live, online concerts, videos and on albums for children and families. They perform both as an acoustic duo and sometimes with a full band, incorporating freeze dancing, puppets, hand percussion instruments for the audience interaction and humor as part of their performance act.

Amy and Jason decided to pay it forward by helping to raise money for the Hackensack University Medical Center’s Transplant Team, since due to the COVID-19 pandemic, research has been placed on hold and funds reallocated.

“This is an “all hands on deck” situation,” said Michael Goldstein, MD, FACS, director of Abdominal Organ Transplant, Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation, and Pediatric Abdominal Transplantation at Hackensack University Medical Center’s Division of Organ Transplantation.

“This fundraiser will help us continue our commitment to professional development for our team of healthcare heroes who are taking such great care of patients, like Amy.”

According to Jason, after her transplant, Amy has no longer needed the assistance of her insulin.

“Amy entered a new era, free of needles and insulin, liberated from episodes of extreme and unpredictable variability in her blood sugars," said her husband, Jason. 

"She now has essentially a normal life, something she had not seen in decades. And this all because of the unselfish generosity of a donor who gave the Gift of Life and the incredible Transplant Team at Hackensack University Medical Center. We want to help make sure others are as fortunate as we have been."

Click here for information. Donations are optional, but appreciated.