Richard Roth, the last remaining original CNN employee and the company’s senior UN correspondent, is recovering following a successful kidney transplant surgery earlier this week. He received the kidney from donor Samira Jafari, the deputy managing editor of CNN’s investigations unit, whom he called his “heroine.”
“How do you thank someone who gets you off dialysis and saves your life?” Roth asked in a Friday note to colleagues. He added, “[This story] should be about [Samira], and how urgent the need is for live donors to ease the suffering of the over 100,000 desperately seeking an organ to survive.”
The veteran journalist previously underwent a transplant from a deceased donor 25 years ago. In a letter to his CNN coworkers in September, Roth wrote that the “valiant kidney is now rapidly dying inside me” and that he needed an organ donation “soon.”
Roth, with support from CNN’s then-president Jeff Zucker, brought the letter up to the entire company, asking for a volunteer donor. He joked that the request was “not a desperate last chance attempt to do a live shot,” before adding earnestly that “it takes a special kind of person to keep another human being alive.”
Were it not for the newsroom-wide editorial meeting where Zucker brought up the note, Samira would not have known of Roth’s urgent request. “It was that close,” he said.
“There were other CNN employees who also volunteered to be tested as an organ donor for me,” Roth said, adding that they will “not be forgotten.” After numerous blood and tissue tests conducted by Yale’s “very, very meticulous” medical center, Jafari was found to be a match.
“Samira should not have to pay for a meal when in the company of any of you,” Roth wrote.
Roth quipped un his thankful note that the transplant “was part of the ongoing US Iran nuclear agreement talks,” as Jafari and her parents immigrated to the United States from Iran.
He concluded, “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.”