Section: Saint Barnabas Medical Center News

Giving The Gift Of Life And Music: Local Musician Benefits from Kidney Donation


A local musician trumpets the benefits of kidney donation.

Gary Guzio has played trumpet with some of the biggest names in jazz, performed in Broadway musicals and recorded many albums over a long career in music. But the Fair Lawn resident had to put down his horn when kidney disease, caused by years of diabetes, grew so severe he needed a transplant to survive. Now, he’s well enough to play his music again— because a neighbor he only casually knew offered to donate a kidney.

Guzio’s health deteriorated about five years ago, when he needed bypass heart surgery. His doctors were worried about his kidneys then, and they got progressively worse, until he was forced into dialysis for more than a year. When he qualified for the transplant list, Guzio, now 69, hoped that either friends or healthy family members would consider donating. None would.

“That really hurt me,” he says. “I had very little hope, nothing to look forward to. I was depressed. It was a very bad time for me.”

The transplant team at Saint Barnabas Medical Center asked him to find people who could, if a donor was found, help him travel to and from the hospital and care for him while he recovered. Among those people was that neighbor, who remains anonymous. After attending the meeting, the neighbor called him to offer to donate. “I was overwhelmed,” Guzio says. “I started crying. I couldn’t believe it.”

Testing revealed that their blood types didn’t match, but they could enter Saint Barnabas’ Living Donor Kidney exchange program, in which pairs of donor-recipients like them are matched with another pair or pairs. About a month after his initial meeting, Guzio was notified that four pairs, including his, had been linked. “I was overjoyed,” he says. The operation took place June 8, 2016. His donor recovered well; the surgery is typically much easier for the donor than the recipient. “I was glad of that because I felt guilty that [the donor] had to feel any type of pain at all,” he says. He admits his recovery was more difficult, but the donor helped Gary through his convalescence.

“Now I have a different life. I am pretty much normal again,” says Guzio, adding that he couldn’t play his trumpet for two months. “It was like starting from the beginning,” he says, when he started practicing again. He’s now performing with a local big band combo and a brass quintet. He still needs regular medical surveillance, “But all my doctors are very happy with my progress,” he says. “I couldn’t be more grateful and thankful and happy than I am now.”

About the Renal and Pancreas Transplant Division

The Renal and Pancreas Transplant Division at Saint Barnabas Medical Center offers compassionate and comprehensive transplant care for adult and pediatric kidney patients. Our nationally respected team of transplant physicians and surgeons, working closely with experienced registered transplant coordinators, social workers and support staff, offers hope and an increasing number of transplant opportunities to many whose medical conditions previously prevented transplantation as an option. It is one of the largest kidney transplant programs in the country, performing more than 300 transplant surgeries each year. The Living Donor Institute at Saint Barnabas Medical Center offers an increasing number of innovative living donation techniques available at only a few of the world’s leading transplant centers.

With a patient-centered approach, we aim to provide a caring environment with state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment capabilities. Our multidisciplinary transplant team guides patients through the process of deciding on kidney transplant as a treatment option, understanding transplantation, finding a donor, and maintaining a healthy organ after transplant. Along with our established reputation for world-class renal and pancreas transplant, our department of transplant research continues to participate in clinical drug trials and investigate the most current anti-rejection medications available.

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