MILLTOWN, NJ - Every day is a bonus for borough resident Jim Condon. The attorney has a new positive lease on life thanks to the gift of an organ donation five years ago. On May 19, he and his wife Tara laced up the sneakers to walk in the 2019 5K Celebration of Life Walk sponsored by the NJ Sharing Network.
The NJ Sharing Network is a non-profit organization that helps with the recovery and placement of organ and tissue donations to the more than 4,000 Garden State residents in need of a life-saving organ transplant. Condon was the recipient of the gift of life back in March of 2014. Almost a year after the now 49-year old received a shocking diagnosis.
In June of 2013, Condon was diagnosed with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH. The disease is often called a silent killer because the early symptoms of liver disease are not obvious and can mimic other issues like pneumonia. NASH often leads to serious liver complications including cirrhosis and liver cancer. In Condon’s case, he developed cirrhosis and required a liver transplant. Without a liver transplant, Condon’s prognosis was bleak. He would not survive long without it.
After a harrowing nine months following his initial diagnosis and an agonizing wait on the transplant list, Condon’s wish came true. A 17-hour surgery completed by four surgeons at University Hospital in Newark and a year of recovery time gave Condon his life back. He is now healthy and appreciating each and every day he gets to spend with his wife and pets.
“I made a fairly miraculous comeback in my eyes,” Condon said prior to the May 19 NJ Sharing Network Celebration of Life Walk. “While I was waiting for my transplant is where I first learned about the NJ Sharing Network. My wife and I have been involved ever since.”
Without the organ donation, Condon would never have seen the outside of University Hospital when he was admitted the last time before his transplant operation or his next birthday. He spent two months in the hospital waiting and hoping for the life-altering procedure.
“I am really thankful that this procedure has been able to save my life,” Condon continued. “It’s completely miraculous when you stop to consider that I’m going to be turning 50 this year.”
Following the long recovery time, Condon made the decision to scale back on his work as an attorney and is now semi-retired. The switch lets him embrace his new journey; educating people on organ donation.
“It allows me to do more volunteer work with the NJ Sharing Network,” Condon explained. “I love talking to people about my transplant operation and organ donation and tissue donation in general. I’m pleased I have this time to volunteer for the Sharing Network. It’s a little bit of a mission for me.”
The New Jersey Sharing Network works to facilitate organ and tissue donation while assisting in the matching process between donors and recipients. In 2018, more than 600 live-saving transplants were done in the Garden State alone. According to information from the NJ Sharing Network, a person loses his or her battle for life every three days while waiting for a transplant and approximately three people are added to the waiting list in New Jersey each day.
“It’s a constant struggle to educate people,” Condon said regarding organ and tissue donation. “It’s honestly something you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about unless you’ve been touched by transplantation by knowing a donor or knowing a recipient. Nobody likes to think about what is going to happen to their organs when they pass away.”
On May 19, Condon and his wife participated in their fifth Celebration of Life Walk in Long Branch. The walk sponsored by the NJ Sharing Network brings together donor families, transplant recipients, people awaiting transplants, volunteers and more. On Saturday, June 1 an additional 5K walk/run will be held in New Providence, which is the headquarters of the NJ Sharing Network. Through both 5Ks, the Sharing Network hopes to raise more than one million dollars for research, family support and the education on the life-saving benefits of organ and tissue donation.
“Every day is a gift,” Condon said of his post-transplant life. “This is like my bonus life. I’ve now gone five years post-transplant. It was a long recovery. It was almost a year before I was pretty much back to normal. I’m enjoying my life because it is all bonus time for me. We would never have had the chance to otherwise without the generous gift of my donor and without the miracle of transplantation. It’s absolutely life-changing.”