Doctors had written him off, and the small glimmer of hope Dennis Goldstein was holding on to was slowly slipping away.
But the Bayside man is alive and kicking now after a complete stranger across the country saw him in a dream and saved his life.
“If somebody ever tells you miracles don’t happen, don’t believe them,” said Goldstein, 73, who battled severe heart and kidney failure for years. “If I don’t believe in miracles now, I’m out of my mind.”
Goldstein, a retired business owner, is continuing to recover from surgery at his Bay Club apartment after receiving a live kidney from Kathleen Knackstedt, a complete stranger from California, close to seven weeks ago.
The pair had never met, but a spiritual Knackstedt said she had a dream that she was on her knees, extending her kidney out to Goldstein, the night before she first saw his face in a photograph at her close friend Marvin’s home. Marvin, Goldstein’s cousin, then connected the two and began the transplant process across the miles.
“I kept saying in the dream, ‘I offer you my kidney. Please take my kidney.’ I didn’t realize what the dream I meant until the next day,” said Knackstedt, a 59-year-old assistant principal on the West Coast. “I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I was never afraid. I never worried about it. It was something I knew I had to do.”
Goldstein has suffered from heart problems for 20 years, which led to a heart attack and a diagnosis of congestive heart failure five years ago. Medications ruined his kidneys, he said, and in August 2011, doctors took him off the donor list.
“They said I would drop dead on the table,” Goldstein said. “But I was determined to go through that.”
Goldstein’s willpower convinced doctors not to give up on him — even though the ailing, wheelchair-ridden man was physically turning gray and losing his ability to speak. In September 2011, he was put back on the long waiting list, only to later go through two failed donor matches.
“I always had hope, but it was getting further and further away,” Goldstein said.
But then this March, he heard from Knackstedt, who turned out to be a perfect match. The two — who now consider each other family — went under the knife on August 21 and are both healthy and recovering.
“There’s quantity in life and there’s quality,” Knackstedt said. “There’s a difference between walking through it and embracing it to the fullest. Life is just so precious.”
Goldstein, acknowledging his luck and reaffirming his faith, thanked Knackstedt for the greatest act of kindness he ever received.
“My life is a hell of a lot better,” he said. “I feel like God gave me a gift and I’m going to take advantage of it. It’s amazing to me to have this freedom again.”
His wife, Carole, said Knackstedt restored both of their dreams, enabling them to live life fully and even start planning to take trips across the world again.
“If someone would tell me this story, I wouldn’t believe it,” she said. “None of us believed in miracles before this.”