Armand Halter, a new member of the National Kidney Foundation’s (NKF) Kidney Advocacy Committee, is one of our most active and dedicated advocates. Speaking with him recently, I was moved by how engaged he has become and about his journey from tentative advocate to experienced, bold advocate in the space of a year. His dedication and activism has become a symbol of what can be achieved when patients and practitioners decide to make a difference.
I hope you will join him in his great work, whether you live in Connecticut or somewhere else in the U.S.
-Andrew Fullerton, National Kidney Foundation
More than 23 years ago, I joined the ranks of kidney transplant recipients living across the country. In my case, I received two kidneys from a deceased pediatric donor. This gift of life, which came at a heart-breaking time for another family, has allowed me to see my two sons grow into adulthood, start their careers, and get married. Now, I’m awaiting the arrival of a granddaughter at the end of May.
My kidney transplant also ensured I could continue working and earning a living for my family until I reached retirement. Today, I am working part-time. Still, until recently, something was missing.
I discovered that void was an unfulfilled desire to give back, so I did something about it. A year ago, I volunteered for the NKF Peers program. Then, in November 2018, I volunteered to become an NKF advocate.
Things began with a couple of webinars and training sessions. Then came the invitation from NKF to attend the 2019 Kidney Patient Summit, where I would have an opportunity to advocate for kidney disease priorities before my Congressman and Senators.
I’ve engaged with government officials before as a former Department of Defense contractor, but even for me meeting with lawmakers and their staff can be daunting. Thankfully, NKF took the guesswork out of the task.
Their summit materials online gave me a jumpstart on preparation. Then, at the kick-off session, our group leader helped each of us practice our “pitch” for Congressional meetings – an enormous help!
When we met with lawmakers, we were never left to our own devices. Advocates attended each meeting as a group with other volunteers from our state. The support of my fellow kidney disease patients in the room made it easier for me to confidently share my story.
NKF gave us all the tools we needed to make a winning case for policies that would help organ donors and kidney disease patients alike.
The success of the NKF Kidney Patient Summit emboldened me to meet with my Congressman’s in-state staff once I returned home to Connecticut. A simple email directed to my Congressman’s local staff led to a meeting.
My local NKF Program Manager and Executive Director gave me additional support and connected me with two other “Kidney Storytellers” to bring to the meeting – a living donor and her recipient who have since become advocates as well!
Thanks to NKF, I’ve developed a rhythm for telling my story and pressing lawmakers for change. Most recently, I’ve turned my focus to our state legislature in Hartford and am championing a state-version of the Living Organ Donor Protection Act – legislation introduced in Congress and moving through other state legislatures across the country to enshrine robust legal protections for all who partake in the selfless gift of living organ donation.
Since the Summit, 65 new legislators have become co-sponsors of the federal version of this bill introduced in Congress and similar measures have passed in eight states this year, including Colorado, Oklahoma, Arizona and Maryland! All due to the work of advocates like me.
Serving as an NKF advocate has given a great sense of meaning and purpose and I want others to know the same satisfaction.
I invite you to join me by volunteering to write your legislators or even becoming an NKF advocate. My experience has shown me that NKF will give you all that you need to be successful and help you share your share your story to make a difference for kidney patients.