Social media key to saving Mays Landing man’s life | Local News

ATLANTIC CITY — Whatever people think on social media, Facebook in particular, one Mays Landing man literally calls it a lifeline.

Roy McIntosh needed a kidney to replace one of his own that had been damaged by kidney failure. The 48-year-old led a dark life on dialysis.

The pandemic has made matters worse.

“I caught COVID in 2020, which at that time I was in stage 3 kidney failure,” McIntosh said. “So COVID took him to the top.”

When some of his immediate family were ineligible to donate a kidney for various reasons, McIntosh and his wife became desperate.

Devastated by her husband’s bleak outlook, Toshira Maldonado-McIntosh found herself scrolling through Facebook from her phone one day in December as she sat at his dining room table. When she saw a post on the Christian Laughs page asking what you would like God to bring you in 2022, she asked for a kidney donor with type B blood.

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Little did she know that Heather Schaefer would also be online over 1,500 miles away in Grapevine, Texas, visiting that same Facebook page and seeing Maldonado-McIntosh’s call in hopes of breathing new life into her husband.

“I felt that pang in my heart that his message was for me,” said Schaefer, a 33-year-old Scottish-born military wife.

At first, Maldonado-McIntosh was skeptical of Schaefer’s generous offer to volunteer for one of his kidneys if it fit.

“My sister was like, ‘Maybe this isn’t a hoax. Maybe she’s a real person,'” Maldonado-McIntosh said.

She trusted God, sending an image of a Virtua Health nephrologist’s business card to Schaefer. This initiated McIntosh’s rescue procedure.

Maldonado-McIntosh was later told that Schaefer’s blood was type B – the same as her husband’s. Maldonado-McIntosh kept the secret to surprise her husband.

McIntosh was driving to work when he received an unexpected phone call from Virtua telling him that his new kidney would be removed from Schaefer, packed for a flight to Philadelphia, and transferred across the Delaware River to the Virtua Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Camden. He was waiting for her there.

Given the long distance between the McIntoshes and Schaefers, they never met in person but corresponded often via FaceTime.

The transplant surgery took place on June 8. Since then, McIntosh says, he feels like 20 years has been cut from his age. He felt quite healthy and had a strong desire to finally meet his life-saving donor in person.

Schaefer, too, was looking forward to a one-on-one encounter.

The couple chose the YouYu restaurant and noodle bar at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City. They and Schaefer favor Asian cuisine, but the restaurant has a deeper meaning for the McIntoshes.

They frequented the restaurant while McIntosh was on dialysis for dietary reasons. It was also a space where they could hide from the grim life that followed them.

“It was (YouYu) a breath of fresh air,” Maldonado-McIntosh said.

While around 30 diners enjoyed the dining ambience on the restaurant’s ground floor, the McIntosh family, Schaefer and her two children sat at a private, quaint dining table. They shared laughs, practicing chopstick skills before enjoying a mid-afternoon course of lo mein, beef and curry.

Organ donations often come from a loving friend or close family member, but social media has fueled a trend in which strangers are helping each other, said Dr. John Radomski, a Virtua surgeon who oversaw McIntosh’s operation.

Living donors are most preferred by organ transplant surgeons as they have the best chance of providing healthy and functioning body parts.

“The kidney worked immediately,” Radomski said of McIntosh’s operation. “His blood pressure is under control now. He shows no sign of rejection.

Living donors contributed 28% of U.S. kidney transplants in 2019, a percentage that dropped the following year when the pandemic hit, Radomski said.

Nearly 20,000 organ transplants nationwide – heart, kidney, etc. – were performed from January to June, according to data from the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, a public-private partnership that connects professionals working in the US donation and transplantation system.

As of Wednesday, about 89,000 people were in the OPTN database waiting for a kidney, its website says.

The surgeon advocates for kidney transplant awareness, educating people about the operation. A functioning kidney can continue to purify the blood once it’s removed, transitioning to full-time work after a few months, Radomski said.

“It’s always a good feeling when you do the kidney transplant, whether it’s from a deceased donor or a living donor,” Radomski said.

A better life

Since her surgery, McIntosh has been enjoying activities with her four children in New Jersey and chatting with another, the oldest of the couple, living out of state.

More so, the McIntoshes can continue to cherish their marriage, which is approaching its 24th anniversary. The couple met in the 1990s while on an NJ Transit bus bound for the Division of Motor Vehicle when its Atlantic County operations were in Northfield.

While Schaefer and her children may return to suburban Dallas after visiting McIntosh and Ocean City, she will always be connected to the McIntosh’s now that she is part of the family.

“She’s my new sister here,” McIntosh said, hugging Schaefer and giving her a gentle kiss on the head.

Contact Eric Conklin:


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Twitter @ACPressConklin

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