Rhodes-eRobert Rhodes’ career with U.S. Customs and Border Protection began in 1987. He is a paralegal specialist in the Fines, Penalties, and Forfeitures Office of the Port of Buffalo. Rhodes is also the recipient of a kidney transplant.

In 2008, Rhodes learned that he was in need of a new kidney. “That was due to diabetes and stress,” he explained.

He was added to the waiting list for a kidney from a deceased donor. The need for kidneys is high but the number of donors is much lower, meaning that it may be years before a matching organ becomes available. In Rhodes’ case, the wait lasted about 2½ years. “During the time I was waiting it was stressful, my energy levels were down, my creatinine level was up and I would tire easily,” he recalled.

In 2011, a matching kidney became available. Rhodes underwent transplant surgery at Buffalo General Hospital. (Buffalo General no longer performs kidney transplants, and those doctors now work with the transplant center at ECMC, Rhodes noted).

“My health has improved dramatically,” he said. “I’m still able to do many of the things that I used to do before the surgery, except heavy lifting and a few other things, but my overall health has improved dramatically.”

Rhodes does not know the identity of his donor, but he is grateful. Asked what he would say to someone considering organ donation, Rhodes replied, “It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give someone.”

Police, firefighters and first responders from agencies across Western New York are working to give the Gift of Life by joining Unyts’ Holiday Heroes campaign. The agencies will host blood drives in December and January. The events will include Donate Life Registry drives as well, where they’ll be encouraging the public to sign up to become organ, eye and tissue donors. Click here to find out more and make an appointment to give blood.