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Richard Roth, CNN’s senior UN correspondent, the last remaining original employee of CNN, is recovering after a successful kidney transplant earlier this week.
In a note to colleagues on Friday, Roth asks: “How do you thank someone who gets you off dialysis and saves your life?”
Perhaps this is how: Roth is publicly thanking his donor, Samira Jafari, whom he calls his “heroine.” Jafari is deputy managing editor of CNN’s investigations unit. This story, he says, “should be about her, and how urgent the need is for live donors to ease the suffering of the over 100,000 desperately seeking an organ to survive.”
Roth first received a kidney from a deceased donor nearly 25 years ago. Unfortunately, he wrote in a letter to CNN colleagues last September, that “valiant kidney is now rapidly dying inside me.” He explained that he needed an organ donation, and “soon.”
With the support of Jeff Zucker, CNN’s president at the time, Roth sent his letter to the entire company. With trademark humor, he wrote the kidney plea was “not a desperate last chance attempt to do a live shot.” He added, seriously, that “it takes a special kind of person to keep another human being alive.”
Zucker brought up Roth’s letter on a newsroom-wide editorial call. Were it not for that conference call, Roth wrote Friday, “Samira says she would not have known of my need. It was that close.”
In Roth’s Friday note, which was sent to the entire company, he said “there were other CNN employees who also volunteered to be tested as an organ donor for me,” and “they will not be forgotten.” But “the blood, the tissue has to match,” he said. “There were many tests. The Yale medical center is very, very meticulous.” With Jafari, Roth was incredibly lucky. “Samira should not have to pay for a meal when in the company of any of you,” he wrote to colleagues Friday.
Roth also quipped that the transplant “was part of the ongoing US Iran nuclear agreement talks.” Jafari “moved here from Iran with her parents,” he explained. “So to sum up…I now have four kidneys in me. Woman and man. Iran and New York. Muslim and Jew, CNN Atlanta, and New York. Teamwork the way CNN founder Ted Turner urged back when CNN began in 1980.”
Roth is still in the hospital while his body gets to know his new organ. Jafari is resting back at home.
UN spokesperson sends best wishes
Roth’s colleagues and competitors on the UN beat have been rooting for him. The spokesperson for the UN Secretary General, Stéphane Dujarric, spoke with Roth on Thursday and updated the press corps on his condition. “His usual booming voice is coming back,” Dujarric said, “and I think you all share with me in sending all great, great thoughts and positive thoughts to Richard as he recovers, and I even hope to have him back in this room asking questions soon.”