Thursday, January 15, 2009
Husband Demands Kidney Back From Wife in Divorce... or 1.5 Million Dollars
Richard Batista can live with his broken heart. He just can't bear his cheating wife living with his healthy kidney.
The Long Island doctor wants the one-time love of his life to pay $1.5 million for the organ he bestowed on her eight years ago in a gift meant to save her life and their foundering marriage.
"There's no deeper pain you can ever express than to be betrayed by the person you devoted your life to," Batista told reporters in Garden City Wednesday.
"I saved her life. But the pain is unbearable."
Batista charged his wife, Dawnell, repaid his gesture by first sleeping with her physical therapist - and then denying him access to their three kids in an increasingly bitter divorce.
Adding to his anguish, Batista insists his decision to donate his kidney in 2001 was in part a failed effort to rescue their troubled relationship.
"My first priority was to save her life," the 49-year-old doctor said. "The second bonus was to turn our marriage around."
Dawnell Batista survived. Their marriage lasted just another four years, with the wife filing for divorce in July 2005.
The once-happy pair met two decades ago when he was a resident and she a training nurse at North Shore Hospital.
They were married in August 1990, celebrating with a lavish Long Island reception, and were soon living in a $1 million Massapequa home.
The couple shared the joy of three daughters, but Dawnell was battling kidney failure and the couple's relationship turned shaky.
Her husband - a surgeon at Nassau University Medical Center - injected her three times a week with medication as part of her health care regime.
Dawnell's health continued to deteriorate. After two transplants failed, her husband volunteered to donate one of his kidneys - and discovered he was a match, a 1-in-700,000 shot.
"I was the first and only one to step to the plate," the doctor recalled. Without his donation, Dawnell faced a long wait: There are 6,748 people awaiting kidneys in New York State, the New York Organ Donor Network says.
Successful surgery followed at a Minnesota hospital on June 28, 2001. Batista said he was looking forward to happier times with his now-healthy bride - but his hopes proved futile.
"Nothing changed," he said.
Dawnell Batista viewed the kidney as a new lease on life, too. She returned to school to earn a master's degree in nursing, and took up karate, her husband said.
After an injury suffered while trying to earn her black belt, she began physical therapy - which evolved into an affair with her therapist, Batista said.
"It put a hole in my heart that still exists," Batista said of his wife's disloyalty. "To this day, I'm a man of pride. To be betrayed that way, humiliated - I can't even began to say."
Dawnell Batista was not at her home Wednesday. Her lawyer did not return a call for comment.
Batista said the ongoing ugliness began on day one of their divorce.
"She slapped me with divorce papers when I was in surgery trying to save another person's life," he fumed.
The case was apparently the first of its kind in New York State. Julia Rivera of the New York Organ Donor Network said she never heard of anything similar.
"This is extraordinary," the spokeswoman said.
Batista insisted his cash-for-kidney claim was a direct result of his wife's behavior. He said he hasn't seen his three daughters - ages 14, 11 and 8 - in months.
"This is my last resort," Batista said. "I didn't want to be in the public eye."
Despite the animosity, Batista insisted he would donate the kidney all over again to his hopefully soon-to-be-ex. He fondly recalls a visit to her room on the day after surgery.
"There was no greater feeling on this planet," he said. "As God is my witness, I felt as if I could put my arm around Jesus Christ. I was walking on a cloud."