Waking up to the sound of her daughter’s voice, Dr. Hetty Chung gets ready for work at her nearby New Hyde Park OB/GYN practice, where she has delivered thousands of babies and guides parents-to-be through the pregnancy process. After a busy day at the office, Dr. Chung cares for her four-year-old daughter, Isabella, tucks her into bed, then prepares for her own arduous four-hour dialysis cycle.
Dr. Chung, 44, who has had kidney disease for almost two decades, has been able to fight through her illness while continuing to help mothers throughout their pregnancies. While she currently works on a limited schedule, she does not let her illness interfere with her passion for her profession, hoping to return to a full-time schedule once a kidney is found.
“I push hard everyday and try to do my very best for patients and to be as available as I can,” Dr. Chung said. “Each delivery is special and I am so honored to be able to bless a family with a life-changing and priceless gift.”
At age 17 while growing up in Great Neck, she was diagnosed with lupus. The disease began to affect her kidneys in her early 20s. Dr. Chung had just finished medical school and was determined to start her residency in OB/GYN when she was diagnosed with kidney failure at age 26. After three months of dialysis, her sister, who still resides on the peninsula, volunteered to be a kidney donor, giving Dr. Chung 16 years of healthy living.
“It just kind of fell into place and my residency director graciously reserved my residency spot for the following year,” Dr. Chung said.
Then, two years ago, Dr. Chung experienced new kidney failure, leading to her current search for a kidney donor who will match her needs. She has already been in contact with several local TV-news stations and newspapers, as well as The Korean Channel, looking for a kidney with 99 percent antibodies like her own. Due to this high antibody number, Chung specifically needs two O donors willing to do a paired donation. When not working or with her daughter, she has been reaching out to charities and organizations that help those in need find kidney donors.
Although the process has been stressful, both her patients and her daughter have inspired her to never give up hope in finding a kidney. Seeing her patients experience life’s challenges gives her the motivation to keep fighting for herself and to be there for her patients. And, seeing Isabella mature motivates her to keep persevering so that she can continue watching her daughter make her proud.
“After spending almost 10 years trying to have [Isabella], I treasure her so much more and I know she is my greatest blessing,” Dr. Chung said.
The OB/GYN said that to live a full, healthy life, people only need one functioning kidney, and assures that donating a kidney is not harmful to bodily functions for a large majority of people. Dr. Chung also states that if someone donates a kidney to any organization, they automatically move to the top of the recipient list if in need of a kidney themselves.
After two years of searching, however, Dr. Chung looks to inspire others to follow their goals and push through the pain when faced with a challenge.
“With motivation, I was able to finish medical school, become a doctor and still have a family despite my medical challenges,” Dr. Chung said. “Even with the difficulties and challenges, there are true rainbows seen and I hope others will not give up.”
Those interested in being a kidney donor should visit www.mountsinai.org/patient-care/service-areas/organ-transplants/programs-and-services/living-donation/starting-the-donation-process, www.kidneymitzvah.com/contactus.html or www.surveymonkey.com/s/be-a-living-donor.