ROXBURY, NJ – Donating a kidney to a fellow Roxbury resident was “a simple thing,” said Kim Roumes on Tuesday, urging others to consider becoming organ or tissue donors.
Roumes and her kidney recipient, former Roxbury Boy Scout leader Bob Williams, appeared together Tuesday at the Roxbury Mayor and Council meeting. Town officials, at the meeting, issued a proclamation in honor of National Donate a Life Month.
Williams and Roumes said they plan to become activists on behalf of organ and tissue donorship. They expect to participate as a team in the NJ Sharing Network 5K Race and Walk in New Providence.
“I did this truly from the bottom of my heart,” Roumes said at the meeting. “It was something I never looked back on and something I will never regret. I was never once nervous about doing this.”
A Humble Hero
Williams referred to Roumes as an “angel,” and Roxbury Mayor Bob DeFillippo called her a “local hero.” But the Succasunna resident downplayed her specialness.
“If anybody out there would like to give somebody a chance at a new life, it’s a simple thing,” she said. “It’s not difficult. You just have to be a healthy person. If you’re a healthy person, you can save somebody’s life.”
Williams said he initially was repulsed by the idea of seeking a living organ donor, despite the fact that his prognosis was bleak.
“Initially, I was not interested or motivated in seeking a living donor candidate,” he said. “I was completely mortified by the thought of asking someone to give up part of their body for me. Why would someone do that for me? Who would do something like that for me?”
Although it was a Facebook post by his wife that ultimately led to Roumes’ action, Williams was at first uncomfortable with any form of publicity about his plight. “I thought that once I went public with my situation everybody would look differently at me,” he said. “They would think that I was broken. That was the last thing I wanted.”
Glad to Be There
Noting his presence at the council meeting was his “first public appearance” since the surgery, Williams – a radio personality with 101.5 FM – said it felt great to again be out and about. As he stood next to Roumes, Williams drew applause with his praise for her generosity.
“Kim is simply amazing,” he said. “She is the most selfless and caring person. We, as a community, are truly blessed to be living among a true hero.”
He mentioned a message he’d received from Roumes after the transplant, a note he keeps in his wallet. In it, Roumes told Williams the kidney donation was something her heart told her she needed to do.
“I kept saying why should I be able to live a good live and not Bob?,” said Roumes in the note. “I wanted you to be able to live out your life, enjoying your kids and (wife) Kathleen and all they will achieve. I was never looking for praise. I just wanted to be able to help you. I don’t want you to feel you have to repay me.”
Also urging people to consider becoming donors – or to at least check off the organ donor box on their driver’s licenses – was Roxbury Councilwoman Jaki Albrecht. Her 14-month-old son Matthew died from a mattress fire in 2000, that was caused by a spark from an electrical outlet, and his organs were donated.
“These two right here are really the biggest reason why Roxbury is the wonderful town it is,” Albrecht said. “We’re really a small town at heart. We are here for each other when we need it. My little guy helped two people come off dialysis. He gave his corneas so two people could see.”
She said Williams’ story made her cry “tears of joy” thinking about how Matthew's "little heart was able to beat in somebody else’s chest.”
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