Rahway’s Lisa Smallwood-Belk Celebrates Her Life-Saving Kidney Transplant

(above) Lisa Smallwood-Belk (Photo Credit: Courtesy of NJ Sharing Network)

Lisa Smallwood-Belk Celebrates Kidney Transplant

On Saturday, May 20, 2023, thousands of organ and tissue transplant recipients, donor families, living donors and dedicated volunteers and advocates came together in Ocean Grove for NJ Sharing Network’s 5K Celebration of Life Walk and USATF Certified Race. The 5K Celebration of Lifeis one of the Garden State’s largest and most-recognized charitable events. Funds raised support the Sharing Network Foundation in its commitment to saving lives through clinical advancement, family support and public awareness and education about the life-saving benefits of organ and tissue donation and transplantation.

Family members and friends of Lisa Smallwood-Belk, 62, of Rahway, NJ, walked together as part of the “Each One, Reach One” 5K team to celebrate Lisa’s life-saving kidney transplant and show their support for NJ Sharing Network’s mission.

“In November 2020, through the blessing of an angel, I received a new, healthy kidney and a second chance at life. I am thrilled to be a part of NJ Sharing Network’s 5K Celebration of Life. I am passionate about giving back and educating others about the power of organ and tissue donation and transplantation,” said Smallwood-Belk.

(above) Family members and friends of Lisa Smallwood-Belk walked together as part of the “Each One, Reach One” 5K team to celebrate Lisa’s life-saving kidney transplant. Pictured here are some of the members. BACK ROW: Collin Belk; Michelle Freeland; Lisa Smallwood-Belk; Jacyn McPhail; Tonny Belk; and FRONT ROW: Nichole Mcphail; Ariana Belk; Aerielle Belk.

In 1987, Smallwood-Belk was 27 years old when she was first diagnosed with Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease (ADPKD), a life-threatening genetic disease.

“I had just been married and was pregnant with the first of our three children when I was diagnosed. Fortunately, I had no symptoms at the time. So, I went on with enjoying my life, my professional career, and the excitement of starting a family. Unfortunately, my condition worsened over the years, eventually leading to End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) and kidney failure. While I was on dialysis, I kept my strong faith and hope alive that I would receive the gift of life through a transplant,” said Smallwood-Belk.

On November 21, 2020, Smallwood-Belk’s prayers were answered when she received “the call” for her kidney transplant at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center.

“I was truly blessed by God because my kidney started working right away. I continue to face some health challenges, but I will do whatever it takes to honor my donor by keeping my new kidney healthy and safe,” said Smallwood-Belk.

In addition to supporting NJ Sharing Network, Smallwood-Belk and her family created an organization, Each One Reach One, Inc., to educate, consult, heighten awareness around ADPKD with an added focus on communities of color.

According to United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), there are over 100,000 Americans – nearly 4,000 of whom live in New Jersey – waiting for a life-saving transplant. One organ and tissue donor can save eight lives and enhance the lives of over 75 others. To learn more, get involved, and join the National Donate Life Registry as an organ and tissue donor, visit NJSharingNetwork.org.

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