Larry and Lisa Lewinson

Larry and Lisa Lewinson with Dr. Anjay Rastogi

Donor and Recipient 

Larry (68) and Lisa (64) Lewinson, a married couple from the South Bay, both participated in the non-directed paired kidney transplant exchange program in 2022. Sharing five children and thirteen grandchildren together, the couple spends their free time attending car shows, and traveling all over the world. 

Larry’s kidney health had been on a steady decline for quite some time, and as a result, so had his initial nephrologist’s optimism towards his case. Every routine appointment felt hopeless as the couple was consistently given harsh news. Finally, Lisa convinced Larry to switch healthcare providers as the couple did not agree with such a negative approach towards treatment, and thus began their journey with UCLA health. 

The Lewinson’s became involved in the CORE kidney program in 2019, upon meeting Dr. Anjay Rastogi for a consultation. Attending a kidney meeting in Santa Monica, Larry overheard Dr. Rastogi discussing renal health with another patient and was immediately drawn to him. Emotional and in tears, Larry felt an innate compulsion to talk to him and waited to speak to him alone. Though their insurance didn’t allow them to utilize UCLA healthcare, Dr. Rastogi invoked copious amounts of hope in them and assured them an appointment, eventually enrolling Larry into a clinical trial that would allow him to continue receiving treatment without the necessary insurance. 

Lewinson 1 year

Before his kidney transplant, Larry felt incredibly ill and weak due to the buildup of toxins in his body. Anemic and unable to control his bowel movements, he consistently felt nauseous, lethargic and incredibly itchy. In fact, he would often find himself scratching himself till he bled. 

When Larry needed a kidney transplant Lisa immediately offered to be his donor, without hesitation. However, Lisa was told that if she was able to donate her kidney to Larry, she would be unable to to remain his caretaker as she herself would be recovering from the process, simultaneously. While this was incredibly difficult for Lisa to accept as she had always been Larry’s primary caretaker, she eventually put her full faith and trust in the entire healthcare team as they proved extremely thorough and compassionate. After some bloodwork and a cross-match test, Lisa discovered that she could indeed donate her kidney to Larry, however after further testing and analysis, her doctor informed her that her kidney was a little small for him, and she advised the both of them to wait for Larry to receive a larger kidney. Although this meant Lisa was unable to remain a direct donor for Larry, the couple decided to go with the doctor’s suggestion and patiently waited for a suitable donor for Larry. 

Lewinson Family

6 months later, their dreams came true. On February 2nd, 2022 (2-2-22), the couple arrived at the hospital, ready for their surgeries. Larry would be undergoing a non-direct kidney transplant as a recipient, while Lisa simultaneously would serve as a non-direct donor. Five to six hours later, their procedures were completed and the couple began the process of recovery. For Lisa, she felt good as new merely 2 days later, claiming she would if she had three kidneys, she would do the process all over again in a heartbeat. To her, UCLA health is the “happiest place on earth.” While the recovery process was slightly more strenuous for Larry, after a few weeks of discomfort and combating the soreness with prescribed pain medication, he felt like a brand new person–finally human again. During his recovery period, the greatest discomfort he felt was bodily pain near the area of incision and shivering due to his anemia. 

Throughout the entire process, both the Lewinsons maintained trust, hope, commitment, and positivity. As a result, they encourage more people to take kidney donation into consideration as it is a relatively simple, yet extremely gratifying process. As a donor herself, Lisa is grateful for and highly endorses all the UCLA health faculty who made the entire experience as straightforward and effortless as possible. 

An active part of the CIRCLE of CORE, both Lisa and Larry will continue to share their story with the hopes to give back to others around them. By sharing their experience, they hope to reduce any concerns regarding the process of kidney transplant through the eyes of both a donor and recipient, and continue spreading optimism and positivity.

Divya Mehta | Bruin Beans Health Club 

Audrey Kim | Bruin Beans Health Club