It all started at age 26, almost 30 years ago now, with a late-night explosion of searing pain and an agonizing trip to the emergency room. Who would have guessed that one small and painful kidney stone, all those years ago, would eventually lead local resident Taren Tanner to the desperate need for a kidney transplant? If you are from our local area, you may recognize Taren or the Tanner name and be moved to read on. If not, you’ll read on because at some point you’ve been part of our special community, the “Home of Positive Thinking,” so aptly named in honor of the late Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, a Pawling luminary.
According to statistics provided by the National Kidney Foundation and the nonprofit organization Donate Life America, more than 116,000 Americans are currently on the organ transplant list. Of this statistic, a staggering 82% are awaiting a kidney donation. On average, the median wait time for receiving a kidney donation is 3.6 years, depending on availability of organs, health, and compatibility. More than 3,000 new patients are added to the waiting list every month.
A year ago, Tanner was added to the deceased donor transplant list through Mt. Sinai
Hospital. Another option is receiving a kidney from a living donor. Though living donors made nearly 6,000 organ transplants possible in 2015, though there is still a serious deficiency. According to the Living Kidney Donor Network (LKDN), 4,500 people die every year waiting for a kidney transplant. Organizations such as LKDN focus on encouraging everyone to think about becoming a living donor.\
Early last year, Tanner and his wife, Christine Monahan, rejoiced to learn that she was a match and could serve as his living donor. Buoyed by the news that Taren would have a new lease on life, they set about making arrangements for side-by-side surgery and an at-home recovery assisted by relatives and friends. In the process of going through pre-surgery screening, however, Christine discovered that she had a health problem of her own: early stage lung cancer that, had she not been screened as a potential donor, would have gone undetected.
This unexpected and devastating medical diagnosis immediately became the couple’s top priority. Thankfully, this past June, Christine underwent successful surgery and is now cancer free. Due to her illness, however, she is no longer classified as a viable donor, and the couple has redoubled their efforts to find Taren the transplant he urgently needs.
Since his first kidney stone episode, Taren has suffered through more than fifty kidney stones and a very serious bilateral blockage. He has endured numerous lithotripsies, ureteroscopies, and more than 15 surgeries. Currently, his kidneys function at a mere 6% – 15% of normal levels. Even on his best days, he experiences symptoms that include nausea, fatigue, loss of appetite, weakness, and severe pain.
Watching Tanner catch the 5:35 a.m. train to New York each morning or coach Pawling sports evenings long after dark, most people would be hard-pressed to see the toll Taren’s illness takes on him. In his own words, he just “powers through” each day. Having worked for an international children’s’ non-profit organization for many years, this lifelong Pawling resident eventually decided to leave his desk job to pursue his true passion – sports. After years of attending night classes and completing teaching internships, Taren obtained a master’s degree in education. Currently, he works as a Physical Education Teacher at PS236, an elementary school in the Mount Hope section of the Bronx.
From the time he first donned his Pawling Little League baseball uniform to the years he spent as a star receiver for the Pawling High School football team, Taren has always been an athlete.
Committed to sharing his belief in the power of sports with others, he now devotes much of his free time to mentoring Pawling youth both on and off the field. If you find yourself in his company at the Quick Stop or in the parking lot of St. John’s after mass, you’ll hear lots of people call him “Coach T.” According to Pawling High School Athletic Director John Bellucci, in spite of dealing with his own difficult circumstances, “Taren Tanner has selflessly shared his passion for athletic competition with hundreds of Pawling student-athletes in football and basketball over the past decade here at his alma mater.”
In addition, Tanner has served on the Town of Pawling Recreation Commission, the Village of Pawling Planning Board, and has been a past president of the men’s softball league. “He’s always been an active sports guy, and active in the community,” says his wife, Christine. Despite his serious health issues, his energetic devotion to others shows no sign of flagging. When questioned about his volunteer work, Tanner offers one of his favorite quotes, from sports great Vince Lombardi: “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”
Taren and his wife would like to encourage everyone to consider being listed as an organ donor. This can be done online through the DMV website and only takes a few minutes. If you are contemplating being a living donor, you can visit the Mount Sinai Living Donor site to get started at http://www.mountsinai.org/care/transplant/services/living-donor. If you wish to help Taren specifically, be sure to indicate that in the online form, which asks for the recipient’s full name and birthday (Taren D. Tanner, 12/26/1963).
To help alleviate the cost of medical bills associated with his treatments and registration with non-profit organizations that help match living donors with recipients, Tanner’s daughter Victoria “Tori” Tanner has also begun an online fundraising campaign for her father. Anyone interested in contributing funds can visit www.gofundme.com/d3fjq-kidney-transplant.