Have you ever idolized someone so much that you truly thought they were invincible? As a child, you believed they would live to be 200 and still have the same kick in their step as they always did. Sami Richman, who is currently a junior on Pitt’s campus, has always put her dad on a pedestal. Because he was a physician, she thought he would be the one trying to save her from illnesses and disease throughout her life, but she was wrong.
It was July 21st, 2011, a quite unusually foggy day in Long Island, New York. Sami stumbled out of bed and put her glasses on. She walked downstairs only to find her mother sobbing. The first words she could decipher were from her oldest brother, Jason, saying, “He is going to be okay.” Confused, she looked from her brother to her mom and back and forth. Finally her mom got out the words, “Your dad needs to retire from his practice.” Ron Richman, age 53, was diagnosed with End Stage Renal Kidney Disease. Ultimately, this meant that both of her father’s kidneys were failing. At first, Sami reacted the way her father’s patients and family did, by doing nothing but being able to cry. Her family had never even heard of this disease before. There were so many unanswered questions, so many doubts and fears, and so little hope.
Today, there are 11,579 people on lists around the country waiting to receive a kidney. Ron is on three of the most prestigious lists in the country yet because of his age it is hard to really be recognized in a short amount of time. As Sami moved through the rest of her summer, she decided she wanted to stay home and take some time off from Pitt. She knew that staying home with her dad was the right thing to do. But, both of her parents dismissed the idea and paid her tuition. Her biggest fear was returning home and seeing her father worse than he was when she left him.
Sami got back on Pitt’s campus at the end of August 2011 and moved into McCormick Hall. She lived with six other girls but none of them had any idea what she was going through. Her parents instructed her not to inform any of her friends for the first couple of weeks, just so she could settle in. Emotionally, this began to take a huge toll. She was alone, nervous, worried and her mind was constantly wandering. Her father was in and out of the hospital three times a week for dialysis treatments. During dialysis, all of the blood in the body is drained out, circulated and then put back into the body. This process acts like a real kidney would. Sami didn’t know what to make of this situation, how to handle her schoolwork, social life, and the burden of having a sick parent. “I felt more alone than I ever had before,” she says. Why did this have to happen to her family? Why were her parents forcing her to go back to school? How long would it be until her father was actually okay? Question after question ran through her mind day and night. The days of invincibility had washed away.
Throughout the beginning of Sami’s sophomore year she confided mostly in her twin brother Jordan, who attends Tulane University. He would be there when she needed someone to talk to at 3 AM or someone to just listen to her cry. With this, she came to terms with starting to confide in her mother as well. As she started to really grasp this disease and the effect it was having on her father’s body, she knew there was something she could do even if she was miles away from Long Island. Sami created a Facebook page and a Twitter account to get the word out, to spread awareness not only about her father’s needs but also the disease in general. The goal was to reach out to as many people as possible through this social media outlet. Sami believes this is the one thing that changed this whole situation around. She says, “This was a huge coping mechanism for me. Even though I cannot physically help, this is my way of showing that I do care and that I do have hope.”
Today, the Facebook page has reached over 600,000 people across the world and the Twitter account has been retweeted by celebrities such as George Lopez and numerous Fox News reporters. Sami believes that she will be able find her father a kidney through social media. Being a communications major, she knows that this is one of the fastest ways to spread the word. Because of reading and seeing the Facebook page, there have been ten people who have tried to help her father but while going through the process, something didn’t match up. Each attempt gives this family just a little glimmer of hope.
As Sami goes through her normal routine on Pitt’s campus, the best thing about her day is when strangers and friends ask about her father. In a sense, it lets her know that she has a whole university behind her. The feeling of comfort and security is ultimately what gets her through the day. These kind words spark the hope she has inside of her, and brings back this idea that something good will happen one day. She puts on a brave face and lives her life knowing that she is doing all she can. From this experience, Sami and her family have become stronger people. They have learned to appreciate the small things in life and to not take anything for granted. Even though her idea of invincibility may have been cut short, she cannot forget that her father dedicated his life to her and all of his other patients and will continue to do so as long as he can.
Sami understands that this process is grueling and a huge hardship but this is not the end. There is a cure for this disease and her father will eventually get the help that he deserves. If you or anyone you know would be willing to help Sami and her family, please “like” this Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/RonRichmanNeedsAKidneyDonorToStayAlive , or contact her directly. Ron Richman has O positive and O negative blood. With each Facebook “like” or retweet, kind words or potential donor, Sami and her family appreciate that there are people out there who are willing to sacrifice part of themselves for such a great man.