Donate Life: Nick Infante’s Story

December 2010, my freshman year of high school, I received unexpected news. Little did I know, it would change my life forever. That month I had been diagnosed with Alport Syndrome, a form of chronic kidney disease. Throughout the next four years, my daily life did not change that much, with the exception of constantly having doctors appointments, and having to take different medications on a daily basis.

Fast forward to November 17th, 2014 –  just a little over two months into my freshman year at Monmouth University – I received a call from my mom. I had just got back to my dorm from English class, and was not expecting a call at this time. My mom had told me that she had just gotten off the phone with my kidney specialist, and that my blood test results were in, but that I needed to leave campus because we needed to go to Jersey Shore Medical Center ER in Neptune, New Jersey to have additional tests run. Previously, I had not been feeling well. Whether it was the way my mom was talking on the phone, or some type of intuition, I knew something was not right.

I was immediately admitted into the hospital, as it turns out I had entered the final stage of Alport Syndrome, and was now in kidney failure. Over the next few days, it seemed as if things went from bad to worse, to the point where I was literally fighting for my life. I was informed that the only possible cure to kidney failure is through a kidney transplant, but in the meantime I would have to undergo dialysis to continue my fight and continue living. Because of this I had to have emergency surgery to have a temporary permacath (dialysis port) put into my chest. Following that, I would undergo dialysis treatments three times a week, for four-hour sessions each time until I was able to get a kidney transplant.

Dialysis can only help fight against kidney failure to a certain extent, as it is only a temporary solution. I would constantly be fatigued, and to be honest, continuously felt awful. I saw myself constantly losing weight, partly due to the fact that I would never have an appetite after treatments. But, while all this was going on, I am proud to say that I finished the final month of my fall semester with straight A’s, achieving Dean’s List honors.

While constantly struggling from fatigue and other factors of dialysis, I always managed to keep a smile on my face. In fact, if someone had seen me on the streets that did not know me, they would never know that I was literally fighting for my life. My entire world was turned upside down. But, at the same time I knew that this was not only my fight, as my family and friends were right by my side the entire way.

One of the things that kept me going was that my kidney specialist, Dr. Sushil Mehandru, who promised me that he would fast track me to a kidney transplant, and that he would get me off dialysis as soon as possible. My dad immediately started undergoing tests to see if he was a match to be my living donor. On December 25th, 2014, my family was given the tremendous news that my dad was a perfect match, and could donate one of his kidneys to me.

Then on March 4th, 2015, the transplant took place and I was given a second chance at life. If it was not for my Dad, I might not be here today; he will always be my hero. Since the transplant, I have been doing extremely well, living life like any college student should, excelling in both academics and extra-curricular activities. But, the journey doesn’t end here, as for the rest of my life I will be on anti-rejection medication, as well as recurring doctor visits and required lab tests. Also, because of my young age of getting the transplant when I was only 18, another kidney transplant will be required within my lifetime, hopefully not for many, many years though. That is why organ donation and the Donate Life organization are so important to me, as the fight never truly stops. It is extremely important to raise awareness to everyone, as many fail to see just how important organ donation is; each individual has the potential to save seven lives! Living donors are also extremely important to, as they are literally heroes.

Becoming a brother of Sigma Pi has also had a huge impact on me. I know all my brothers have my back no matter what, and they are always there to support me every step of the way, just as I would do the same for them. It means a lot to me that our philanthropy is with Donate Life, as it gives me a chance to raise awareness and spread the word of how important organ donation is. One of our chapter goals is to run a Donate Life drive-in where we have as many students, teachers, and more sign up to become organ donors. We are hoping to run this event this upcoming spring semester.

Along with my Chapter, I was able to set up a Donate Life drive through NJ Sharing Network on April 18th.

I would like to say a special thank you to my dad and both my kidney specialists: Dr. Praveen Kandula and Dr. Sushil Mehandru. I am forever grateful for everything both of them have done for me in getting me back to 100% health.