How A Shared Kidney Led to the Fishing Trip of a Lifetime

Every day is a gift when you are given a second chance at life, but for Don Robinson, there is one day of the year that warrants an extra celebration, his “Re-Birthday.” An annual tradition honoring the sacrifice of a friend and the precious moments of life it gave back.

“Without Jesse, I wouldn’t have an actual birthday. I wouldn’t have gotten to meet my grandson or walk my daughter down the aisle. I want to celebrate Jesse every day, but instead, we agreed to have an anniversary dedicated to us. It’s the one day of the year where the clouds open up and pure sunshine pours down on whatever we touch.”

Don & Jesse Enjoying Their Time At South Fork Lodge

A Re-Birthday Cake Was Shared

Each year the two men dream up a different adventure to experience together, and this year’s celebration, made through a culmination of serendipitous events, was a guided fishing trip on the South Fork of the Snake River. The same river, where just three year prior, Don was first struck by the profound reality of the terminal nature of his stage 5 kidney failure. A fate he thought he could overcome with enough positivity, ambition, and an active lifestyle. Life ignored his optimistic outlook and in those next few years his health rapidly declined, and his most promising donor matches came back negative.

Jesse and Don have known each other for 18 years, since Jesse was 12. They lived just two blocks apart, shared similar interests and even the same last name (although no relation). Don was a role model to Jesse—a second father figure, a confidante and lighthearted companion. So, it was a great surprise when Jesse learned from an old neighbor of Don’s ailing health. He immediately flew to visit Don and offered up his kidneys to which Don adamantly refused.

Trying to cope with the weight of Don’s illness, Jesse sought out Don’s doctor and scheduled a test to see if his kidney was compatible. Seven tests and 6 months later, Jesse got the answer he felt in his heart from the very beginning—against tremendous odds they were a perfect match. Overcoming a terminal illness through the gifting of an organ has created an inexplicable bond between Jesse and Don. It has fostered a shared desire to cherish the moments they fought so hard to keep, which is why this annual celebration has become an indispensable and vital part of their friendship. It provides them one guaranteed day a year to embark on a dream adventure or overcome a challenge together.

This year’s celebration of living was spent floating together on world-class waters, a second chance at fishing the Snake River for Don and a first for Jesse. It was the friend that was with Don on the river 3 years ago who recommended the South Fork Lodge by Natural Retreats. Having fished there for years, he knew the experience would be exactly what they were looking for—an authentic, welcoming fishing lodge, with passionate and skilled guides. And we were beyond thrilled and honored that they chose to stay with us. Staff at the Lodge were personally invested in ensuring this was a true celebration, re-birthday cake was eaten and happy re-birthday was sung.

Don's Great Catch!

Nothing Beats A Day On The Water

From the size of the fish they caught to the stories of the ones that broke their lines, it was the epitome of a successful fishing trip. But what really set this trip apart for Don, was what he experienced within. Seized by the incredible beauty of the river— the sunrise dancing along each curve of the canyon walls and the fog gliding over the water—Don describes a feeling of complete restoration, a true rebirth of the mind and spirit. This celebratory day on the river lived up to the true and original intent of the Re-Birthday in every aspect.

“The previous year (Jesse and I) raced Ferrari's, which was on the top of my bucket list. I thought that was going to be the pinnacle of everything I wanted to experience by way of excitement in my life, but I was wrong. That weekend on the river was better than anything I could have imagined or thought that I needed. It was a spiritual experience and the greatest Re-Birthday celebration I will ever have.”

Thank you Don and Jesse for sharing your story, it exemplifies why we love what we do at Natural Retreats. It was an honor to be a part of your Re-Birthday and we wish you two many more adventures together.

Have an inspiring story you'd like to share? We'd love to hear it. Just send us an email at concierge@naturalretreats.com