Emily and Norman Biondi
The Division of Transplantation at the University of Maryland Medical Center recently hosted a send-off party for Norman Biondi, a living kidney donor who rode a float in the New Year’s Day Rose Parade. Norman Biondi of Ellicott City donated one of his kidneys to his daughter, Emily, who was diagnosed with kidney failure at the age of 19. The successful transplant surgery took place on December 19, 2003, at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
In an effort to honor and thank her father, Emily submitted an essay expressing what her father’s kidney donation meant to her. Emily’s essay was one of five selected from among more than 150 contest entries nationwide in the Ride of a Lifetime essay contest. The prize, to participate in the 2007 Rose Parade, was awarded to Norman. The entire Biondi family traveled to Pasadena, California, to help build and ride in the Donate Life Rose Parade Float. The float is coordinated by OneLegacy, which facilitates organ and tissue transplants in the Greater Los Angeles area.
This past summer, Emily attended the U.S. Transplant Games where she sang at the closing ceremony and competed as an athlete. Emily won three silver medals and one gold medal, but she said the most meaningful award was the silver medal she won for running the 5K race with her father. They both finished together, but only she could win because she was an organ recipient. Emily wrote in her winning essay, “When I received the silver medal it was actually my father, my hero, and my organ donor who deserved it.” Read Emily’s essay below:
As a student of Florida Southern College, I was incredibly active. I was always running around doing things for SGA or trying to stay in shape to be on the dance team. I was a vocal performance/dance major and at the end of my sophomore year I became very ill. Being from Maryland, I moved my stuff into a storage facility and made my journey back home for summer vacation.
High blood pressure and a fever brought me to the doctor’s office. I had complete kidney failure, and I had to be rushed to the hospital for a blood transfusion and then start the course of many painful hemodialysis sessions.
I was only nineteen. I couldn’t understand why my kidneys had failed. And neither did any of the doctors. A kidney biopsy had only showed scar tissue, leading the doctor’s to believe that the failure was due to some undetected virus I got when I was little and had slowly deteriorated the kidney.
Nine months of hemodialysis had taken its toll on my body and spirit. I was on a lot of prednisone which made my cheeks swell and made me gain weight. I had to transfer schools to a University in Maryland. Just walking to class made me stop for breaks. I used to be in great physical shape, but now looked like a different person.
My loving father elected to be my kidney donor. The hardest part of the process was watching my dad being rolled away to surgery a couple hours before me.
After a month I felt I could walk to classes without having to take any breaks. I started to feel more healthy and happy that I ever felt before. Then soon enough I started to dance and sing again. I had gotten my life back.
My father is my hero. He didn’t just transform my life; he gave it back to me. This past summer I attended the National Transplant Games with Team Maryland. I would be singing at the closing ceremony and competing as an athlete. My dad really helped me train. He became my coach. He helped me schedule times so I could meet with a professional track coach and I could learn how to do the long jump.
I came home with one gold medal and three silver medals. I got the gold in the long jump. But the medal that is the most meaningful to me is a silver medal I got in the 5k race. This event was open to everyone who attended the games.
My father and I ran the entire race side by side. I wanted to quit but he kept pushing me. Both of us finished at the same time, but only I could win a medal because I was an organ recipient. When I received the silver medal it was actually my father, my hero, and my organ donor who deserved it.