“They treated me like I was the first kidney transplant patient in history.”

June 10, 2024 Swedish Health Team

[5 min read]

In this article: 

  • During childhood, David Novak had one of his kidneys removed when a congenital issue affected the organ's function. 
  • With good medical care and a strict diet and exercise regimen, Novak lived with one kidney until he was in his mid-50s. About three years ago, his kidney began to fail. 
  • Today, he is a happy and healthy transpant recipient, crediting the swift action by his care team and the expertise and dedication of Swedish's transplant team.

Not too long ago, David Novak ran through the streets of New York City asking people for a kidney. Literally.

The 62-year-old Pacific Northwest native and accomplished distance runner had been on the transplant list for about a year-and-a-half, so figuring he had nothing to lose and a kidney to gain, he ran the 2023 New York City Marathon wearing a shirt that read, “I need a kidney. Have a spare?” The race yielded a finisher’s medal, but no kidney.

“Like most people on the transplant list, I’d spent tons of time researching how the list worked, how long I’d be on it and when I could expect a call; I expected three to five years,” Novak told the audience at an April Donate Life transplant month celebration at Swedish First Hill. “So, imagine my surprise when I got a call just shy of two years.”

Putting the word out: Transplant recipient David Novak during the 2023 New York City Marathon.   

Novak, a business consultant, lost one of his kidneys to a congenital issue as a child. Until his mid-50’s a healthy lifestyle helped him ward off any intervention for his remaining kidney. When the organ began losing function, Novak’s nephrology team got him on the transplant list immediately.

“As a result of great prophylactic care and a pretty serious diet and exercise regimen, I was able to forestall [dialysis]," he says. “I went on the list in March of '22 and certainly wasn’t expecting a kidney this quickly. It kind of came out of the blue. I got the offer four days shy of my second anniversary on the list.”

In early 2024, Novak was on his way out the door for a run when the phone rang. There was a matching kidney at the Swedish Transplant Center. The new kidney, while healthy, was hepatitis c positive, a complication Novak and his wife Erin (shown with Novak inphoto at top) had not expected; they spent the next 11 hours rearranging the next several months their lives while working through the decision of whether to accept the kidney.

When they arrived at Swedish at 1:00 a.m., Novak was still not completely committed and asked staffers many questions. A nurse named Michael helped the couple turn a corner by reassuring Novak and connecting them with C.S. Krishnan, M.D., medical director of the Swedish Transplant Center.

“Dr. Krishnan came to my room, and I began bombarding him with questions. Never once did he roll his eyes. He looked me in the eye. He addressed my intellectual questions, but more importantly he met me on my emotional plane, recognizing where I was,” says Novak. “And because Dr. Krishnan took the time to educate me that morning, I was able to finally commit.”

Novak is firmly on the road to recovery. This month, he will begin training for the Chicago Marathon later this year. He credits his Swedish team’s excellent care with helping him get where he is today.

“When they ask me about what is special about Swedish I say ‘people, people, people, people,’” says Novak. “A hospital derives its personality from the people who work there, and without exception everyone at Swedish was exceptional — from the admissions people to the phlebotomists to the doctors and nurses — in their ability to maintain a level of kindness and caring that was amazing. They treated me like I was the first kidney transplant in history.”

Learn more and find a physician or Advanced Care Practitioner (ACP) 

Visit our website to learn more about the Organ Transplant Center at Swedish First Hill.

Whether you require an in-person visit or want to consult a doctor virtually, you have options. Contact Swedish Primary Care to schedule an appointment with a primary care practitioner. You can also connect virtually with your doctor to review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow up as needed. And with Swedish ExpressCare Virtual you can receive treatment in minutes for common conditions such as colds, flu, urinary tract infections, and more. You can also use our provider directory to find a specialist or primary care physician near you. 

Information for patients and visitors 

Related resources 

“The most perfect irrational decision I’ve ever made.”

A record year for hope. Swedish marks an unparalleled year for organ transplant in 2023.

Swedish celebrates the gift of life during Donate Life Month

Transplant nurses help give the gift of life

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions. 

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