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A Message of Thanksgiving from Sandy K. Baruah

November 21, 2019
An update from Sandy K. Baruah, Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration 2008-09; U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce 2005-08; Chief of Staff & Deputy Asst. Secretary for Economic Development, U.S. Commerce Department 2001-05

This year, Thanksgiving takes on added meaning for my family. At the end of July, I received a kidney transplant.  My family and I are so very grateful for the many messages of friendship and support following the procedure.  We were especially touched by the many Bush-Cheney alumni who reached out, including President Bush. 

I was diagnosed with kidney failure in 2015, a condition that came on quite suddenly.  The cause for my kidney disease remains a mystery.  When I was 20, I was diagnosed with a mild form of Lupus.  While that condition has been in remission, it is likely the related medications coupled with a severe flu in 2015 that put my kidneys in rapid decline.

Having served in public-facing roles for much of my career, I chose to keep the news of this condition to a small circle of friends and family.  I wanted to keep the public focus on the work of the organization I am proud to lead – the Detroit Regional Chamber – not how my internal plumbing was functioning.  Fortunately, thanks to advancements in home dialysis, I was able to treat myself at home twice a day.  During the period between my kidney failure and transplant, my life was never in danger and my activities were only moderately limited. 

I was further aided by an extended team of people who made my ability to deal with my kidney condition possible.  My wife, the Chamber staff and leadership, the attentive medical care from Henry Ford Health System which handled my diagnosis, my primary care doctors in Washington, D.C. who continually monitored my condition, and certainly, the excellent team at the University of Toledo which performed the transplant operation all made my ability to deal with my condition possible. 

Needless to say, my family and I are grateful beyond words for the generosity of the donor family who made this selfless gift of life.  I have had the opportunity to communicate directly with the donor family, an opportunity not all organ transplant patients are afforded.  While our family is filled with gratitude, the donor family is still in mourning for the loss of their loved one.  We are grateful beyond words and wish God’s blessings to the donor family, which will always be part of ours. 

I spent the month of August recovering at home – quality time with the dogs.  Fortunately, within two weeks of the transplant I was able to make short trips to the office and short excursions to visit friends.  The fact that I was back at work essentially full-time after Labor Day is a remarkable commentary on the advancements in medical science we enjoy in America.  

While the initial diagnosis was a shock, and frankly scary, I was fortunate at every step in the process.  My family will always be grateful to the many friends, colleagues and medical professionals who made this successful outcome possible. 


Since 2010, Sandy Baruah has served as president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, the third-largest chamber of commerce in the nation.   Follow him @Baruah_DRC_CEO.