Chaya Lipschutz On Kidney Donation - My Story - About 3 years ago, I decided that I wanted to donate a kidney, after seeing an ad in the Jewish Press which said that by donating a kidney, I can someone’s life. I liked that idea of being able to save someone’s life! So I answered the ad in the Jewish Press. This man named Joe, who was looking for a kidney, told me to contact the hospital in New Jersey where he was going for dialysis and where he was planning to have his kidney transplant done. So I went to that hospital in New Jersey. The hospital policy is, that before you even take blood tests to see if you’re a match, they first want you to meet a social worker at the hospital. If you are not related to the person whom you are interested in donating the kidney to, they want to know why you are doing it. They also want to make sure that you are not getting paid for it. It’s illegal to pay someone who wants to donate a kidney. So, anyhow, I met with the social worker at the hospital. She asked me loads of questions and I answered them very well. I was quite shocked when the hospital called me to tell me that I cannot donate a kidney. I asked them why? They told me that “we felt it was not in your best interest.” I was horrified. Not in my best interest? It certainly was in my best interest, to say the least. Who were they to tell me that it was not in my best interest? When I was interviewed by the social worker, I was very enthusiastic and excited about doing this. I am not sure if the social worker was Jewish or not, but I explained her about the concept of mitzvahs, and I would be doing a great mitzvah, by donating a kidney. I also assured the social worker that nobody would be paying me for my kidney. Anyhow, I couldn’t get over the fact that there are a shortage of kidney donors, people are dying everyday because there are not enough people donating kidneys, and here they finally have someone who wants to donate a kidney to someone, and they turned me down flat! Just like that! When I called the transplant coordinator of the hospital and asked why I was turned down, they told me that they would send me a letter telling me why they turned me down – I never got that letter! (I decided not to say the name of the hospital– because all though they were wrong for turning me down – I don’t like to bad mouth anyone.) Anyhow, I called Joe, the man seeking a kidney, and whose ad was in the Jewish Press, and told him that the hospital turned me down. He was upset. Here he was happy a potential kidney donor answered his ad in the Jewish Press, and the hospital he was registered with to have a kidney transplant, turned me down! Anyhow, Joe had another person who was willing to donate a kidney to him. It was a fellow stockbroker named Nancy. Nancy also went to meet the social worker at this New Jersey hospital, and they turned her down too! We don’t know why this hospital would turn down two enthusiastic potential kidney donors. Shame on them! In the meantime, I decided to answer another ad in the Jewish Press for someone else that also needed a kidney. This man Bob, whose ad was in the paper, was connected with another hospital - Westchester Medical Center. Thank G-d, with this hospital, I didn’t 2 have to meet the social worker – I was just tested right away to see if we were a match. I ended up being a match for Bob – but so were two other people. One of the other people ended up donating a kidney to him. Anyhow, in the mean time, since I at least had my blood work done with Westchester Medical Center, I asked this hospital to forward the results of this blood test to Joe’s private doctor in New Jersey, to see if I was a match for him. So, although the New Jersey hospital turned me down as a kidney donor, I found out in the end that I wasn’t a match for Joe, anyhow. So anyhow, I decided after striking out with these 2 people who needed kidneys, that maybe it wasn’t the right time in my life. So I decided to drop the whole thing for about 1½ years. In September 2004, I decided to answer another ad in the Jewish Press for a woman who needed a kidney. It was a woman in her 40’s with 2 children. This woman, named Diane from Long Island, who needed a kidney, was signed up with Montifore Medical Center in the Bronx. At the same time, I decided to also answer an ad in another paper, for a woman in Williamsburg, who also needed a kidney. She too was signed up with Montifore. Someone else told me about a 3rd woman from Boro Park, with young children, who needed a kidney. So I ended up being tested, at the same time, for about 3 or 4 different people who needed kidneys. And all of them were signed up to have their kidney transplant done at Montifore Medical Center. The first thing Montifore wanted me to do, was to meet with a social worker, then a psychiatrist. I passed with flying colors. Then I took a blood test, and was told that I was a match for only one of the 3 or 4 people I was being tested for. I was a match for Miriam, a young woman from Boro Park with 3 children. She had been waiting 7 years for a kidney donor. I was so happy for her. So the next step was more blood tests to see if I was in good enough health to donate a kidney. I had a CBC and a “garden variety” of other tests taken. After the hospital got the results, they called me up with some bad news. Two of my tests came out bad – my ANA (anti-nuclear antibody) tested positive and my C4 was too low. They told me that this might indicate that I have some sort of autoimmune disease such as Lupus or Rheumatoid Arthritis, therefore they told me, I can’t donate a kidney. I was so upset! This is something I really wanted to do! Being unfamiliar with autoimmune diseases, I looked up the symptoms and found that I don’t have any symptoms of any of the autoimmune diseases! I decided I am going to prove to Montifore that there is nothing wrong with me and that I should be able to donate a kidney! So, first I went to my internist – he told me that there is nothing wrong with me. Then I also decided on my own to see a rheumatologist which specializes in auto-immune diseases, and he checked me out and said there was nothing wrong with me and also gave me the same blood tests as Montifore hospital, and all the tests came out good! So I called up Montifore and told them I had gone to see a rheumatologist, and all the tests came out good and I don’t have any autoimmune diseases! So Montifore told me come back in 2 months, and that they will re-test me. So I came back 2 months later – January 2005 and re-tested at Montifore and the tests came out good! So now we were back on the ball again! Anyhow, I continued taking more tests at Montifore, and hit another snag. They found tiny cysts in my kidneys when they took a cat scan! This, I was told, was very common, and would probably be nothing. I was told to take an ultrasound to get a bigger close-up of the 3 kidney to make sure that it was nothing more tha a cyst. Thank G-d everything was o.k. Whew! So, finally after all the tests were done. I was ready. This was around March. Then there was another problem – Miriam, the person I was supposed to donate a kidney to, her antibodies were too high. In order for her body to accept my kidneys, she needed to go for treatment to lower her antibodies, and once that is done, I would be able to donate a kidney to her. So since it wasn’t far from Pesach, everything was postponed until after Pesach. So after Pesach, Miriam started treatment to lower her antibodies. She went for about 5 treatments to do this, and her antibodies still wasn’t low enough. So she continued to go for treatment to lower her antibodies, and when she got her antibodies down to the level she needed to be at, her hemoglobin went down too low to have the kidney transplant! So now she had to go for treatment to raise her hemoglobin! So finally, after several weeks, she got her hemoglobin up. But now she would need more treatment to lower her antibodies again! So, in the meantime, Miriam’s sister felt bad for what she was going through with all the treatment, so her sister decided she was going to be tested to see if she was a match to donate a kidney. It just so happened – her sister was a perfect match – a better match than I - therefore, Miriam was told she didn’t need to go for any more treatment to lower her antibodies. So, Miram’s sister ended up donating a kidney to her. Now I was out of business, no longer had a person to donate a kidney to, and needed to find another person to donate a kidney to! Anyhow, one great thing came out of this – I met two great people – Miriam and her husband, whom are two of the nicest people I have ever met. Anyhow, after about 10 months of the whole thing shlepping along, I started again searching the newspapers looking for someone to donate a kidney to. Since I was first tested for Miriam 10 months before, I had seen many ads in various Jewish newspapers over all these months of people who were in need of a kidney. All ages – including a young child. Every time I saw an ad in the paper for someone who needed kidney – it was a heartbreak. At the times I saw these ads, I was already in the process of being tested for Miriam. But who will donate kidneys to all these people who need kidneys? What if they don’t find anyone to donate a kidney to them? How I wished I had a whole bunch of kidneys so I could save all these lives! When I had gone for a renal scan, which was part of the tests a person has to take before the donate a kidney to see if both kidneys are functioning properly, I asked the technician who gave me the renal scan if I had more than 2 kidneys so I could donate 2 kidneys instead of one. He told me I only had 2 kidneys. What a disappointment! But I expected to hear that, because it is very unusual for anyone to have more than 2 kidneys. There are some people that are born only with one! So I had to count my blessings I was born with 2, therefore being at least able to donate one. Anyhow, because I was already in the process of taking all the tests for Miriam, I had to ignore all those ads in the Jewish Press and other Jewish newspapers for people who need kidneys. But now, since I found out that Miriam’s sister would be donating a kidney to her, I was out of business and needed to find someone else to donate a kidney to! How I wished I had saved all those ads I had seen in the papers for people who needed kidneys. And I hope to G-d that all those people were able to find someone who was able to donate a kidney to them! So, now I had to start from fresh. I called one ad, and this person told me she first needed to lose weight before she can have a kidney transplant. How long could it take, months, a year? It was already August – the case 4 with Miriam shlepped along for over 10 months, and I decided I don’t want to wait anymore. I made up my mind that I wanted to donate a kidney before Rosh Hashanah. So whoever is looking for a kidney- they have to be able to do the transplant before Rosh Hashanah. So I answered the next ad in the Jewish Press for someone who needed a kidney. A young woman named Sari, answered the phone and told me that her mother, Marcelle (Mazal), needed a kidney, and that Joe from New Jersey had told her to put the ad in the Jewish Press. The funny thing was that Joe, who suggested her to put the ad in the Jewish Press for her mother Marcelle, was the same Joe whom I had wanted to donate a kidney to 2 years earlier! Sari didn’t know I knew Joe, and just like that mentioned that Joe had told her to put the ad in for her mother. And when she mentioned Joe was a family friend, I decided that I wanted to donate a kidney to Sari’s mother Marcelle – because Joe is a special person, and anyone who is a friend of Joe’s is a friend of mine! Joe was the one who had sent me to a hospital in New Jersey, where the social worker there had turned me down because they felt “it wasn’t in my best interest” to donate a kidney! So, in the end, I wasn’t able to donate to Joe, but ended up being able to donate a kidney to his friend Marcelle! So Marcelle and I ended up being a perfect match, and I ended up donating a kidney to her on September 22nd, 1 ½ weeks before Rosh Hashanah! Boruch Hashem, Marcelle is doing very well. She is no longer on dialysis, and is functioning like a regular, healthy person. Looking back – one of the hardest part of this whole ordeal, was not the surgery, and not even the shlepping back and forth to Montifore hospital in the Bronx by subway for the tests, but the hardest thing was keeping this secret from my mother. My mother is someone who has a lot of bitachon and emunah, but is terrified of surgery! I knew if she would find about this, this would all be finished! At one point, during the year that I was being tested for Miriam to donate a kidney to her, I had clipped out ads from The Jewish Press and other Jewish papers for people who needed kidneys and left it on the kitchen table, just in case it falls through somewhere along the line with Miriam, I would have a “back-up” – someone else I could donate a kidney to. So, I went to a Bar Mitzvah one night, and I reminded my self at the Bar Mitzvah that I left the ads for people who are in need of a kidney on the table! I thought, oh, no – now I am in trouble – my mother will come home and find the ads of people who need kidneys on the table and this will all be finished! I came home from the bar mitzvah, and lo and behold, my mother had discovered the ads and was upset. She said she wouldn’t mind if I did any other mitzvah except this. I felt very bad when she said this. How could I not do this mitzvah – donating a kidney, saving a life? I am very close with my mother, I love her very much – I have a great relationship with her – what should I do? If I told her that I was still going to do this, my greatest fear is that she would have a heart attack and G-d forbid die as a result of my donating a kidney so someone else could live! So I decided to keep it cool. I decided that what she doesn’t know, wouldn’t hurt her. So anyhow, she tried to talk me out of it and she felt relieved, thinking she had changed my mind and I had decided in the end not to do it. But I didn’t change my mind, and of course didn’t tell her that I would still go through it. So, anyhow, the coming months was difficult hiding the fact that I still intended to donate a kidney. My close friend and one of my sisters knew what I was planning to do – and every time I talked on the phone to any of them about what I was planning to do, I would have to talk in secret. And every time I had to shlepp to the 5 Bronx, I wasn’t able to tell her where I was going early in the morning. And she always likes to know. So, I decided not to tell my mother about my donating a kidney until after the surgery! I had planned it all well, and Boruch Hashem it went as smoothly as I was hoping it would. I had been given a number of a young chassidishe woman named Faigy, who lives in my Boro Park community. Faigy, was a 23 year old woman with a 1 year old baby who had also answered an ad for someone who was looking for a kidney, in another Jewish paper, the Hamodia. She also ended up giving a kidney to a stranger. I had this great idea – that she should come to my house after I have the surgery done, and tell my mother what she had done – that she, herself, had donated a kidney and then tell her, by the way, your daughter (I) is in the hospital right now and she also donated a kidney! So, I went to meet Faigy, this sweet young woman in person – just so she can tell my mother she knows me. So, everything went as planned. I had informed the family of the person that I was donating a kidney to – that when I come out of surgery – to call Faigy to tell her to go to my mother’s house to tell her I was in the hospital and I donated a kidney. So, right after my surgery, the family of Marcelle, whom I donated to, as instructed, called Faigy and told her that I was out of surgery and everything was o.k. and she should contact my mother to talk to her and inform her about what I had done. So, Faigy called up my mother and told her that she needed to come to my mother’s house right away. And so she came to my mother’s house and also brought her 1 year old baby. She started first by telling my mother that she knew me, and then told her about herself – that she had donated a kidney 3 months ago. And then she said by the way, your daughter is in the hospital right now because she also donated a kidney! My mother was shocked - here she sees that this young girl, come to her house with her baby – looking fine and healthy, despite having donated a kidney! So I must be o.k.too! When the hospital informed me that my mother was told and she took it well, I finally was able to call my mother and talk to her about my kidney donation! And you know, in the end, she was very proud of me for what I did! She felt that this was probably one of my main purposes (shelichos) in life! * * * * * * Since I had the surgery done last September, I have found every week in the Jewish papers new ads for other people who need kidneys. I asked myself, what can I do about this? I can’t do anything – I already donated a kidney and have only one left, which I needed for myself! Feeling healed from my surgery, I was just feeling like I was ready to donate another kidney! But since I can’t donate another kidney – I needed the one I have left, what else can be done? The best thing would be if I could get other people to donate a kidney, thus saving more lives! But, unfortunately some people whom I told about my kidney donation thought I was crazy for doing this! They would say to me like “if you have 2 kidneys and something goes wrong with one – so at least you have the other.” Wrong! People don’t know that when something goes wrong with one kidney, the other kidney isn’t good either. These people who have kidney disease and are on dialysis, both of their kidneys are no good and they need a person to donate a kidney to them. People 6 also think by donating a kidney you are endangering your life – Wrong again! Another kidney donor told me that he heard a kidney transplant surgeon say that kidney donors have a longer life span than the people who don’t donate kidneys! How do you like that! Maybe it’s Hashem’s reward to us for donating a kidney! Anyhow, I also heard recently from a Rabbi Avigdor Miller tape that I had in the mail, in which Rabbi Miller said “All you need is one good kidney! Since all we need is one good kidney - maybe that is why Hashem created us with 2 kidneys – so we should do chesed with the other one – donate the other kidney to someone who needs it! Also, people don’t know the facts - if more people would know the facts about kidney donation – more people would donate a kidney – thus saving more people’s lives! Anyhow, on the weekend December 9th – I noticed a record of 4 ads in The Jewish Press for people who needed kidneys. Usually I only see 1 or 2 ads, but this was the most I have ever seen in the paper at one time. Seeing so many ads at one time, was upsetting and really got to me and I decided right there and then that I have to do something about this!!! I had what I thought was a really great idea – the following weekend there was going to be a 3 day event at the Javits Center called Jewish Marketplace Expo and maybe I could get a booth there and talk to people, educate people about kidney donation, and try to get people to donate a kidney! How many people would be there? Thousands! When would there ever be another event where I would be able to reach out to so many people at one time! I got real excited about that idea. But here it was less than 1 week before the event – how do I do this is such a short time? Being unemployed and with little money, how would I be able to afford to do all this – to pay for a booth, displays, fliers? Monday morning, 5 days before the event, I went running around looking for help. First, I called Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, a great Rabbi, whom I have long admired. He was very happy I was doing this and gave me a lot of brochos for doing this. This was a shot of chizuk in my arm! I had this great idea of putting sayings on my fliers from different Rabbi’s about kidney donation. I already had sayings from Rabbi Avigdor Miller, tz”l, and also former Chief Rabbi of Israel , Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. So I asked Rabbi Goldwasser for a saying and he told me to say “Of the greatest gifts humanly possible…. the reward is immeasurable.” I was delighted! This was my foundation! Anyhow, here it was Monday, 5 days before the event, having just spoken to Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser and getting his brochos to do this, where do I go from here? I decided to go to 2 Jewish organizations – one in Boro Park where I live, and the other in Flatbush to seek help – any kind of help – for flyers, displays, etc. – Unfortunately, they weren’t able to help me. My mother always taught be to give people benefit of the doubt, and I did – I realized that these organizations are busy with their own agenda, their own communal affairs, and don’t have time for anything else. So I decided next to go to Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s office. Dov Hikind had already left for the day, so I couldn’t see him. But I told his receptionist my story – that I was a kidney donor and that I had seen a number of ads in the Jewish Press for people who needed kidneys and that I had wanted to have a booth at the Jewish Marketplace event, to get more people to donate kidneys, so more lives can be saved. His receptionist said, “Dov Hikind is going to be so happy about this” and told me to call back and speak to someone else in his office to schedule an appointment to see him the following day. The next morning, Tuesday, I 7 spoke to him. As the receptionist speculated, he was very happy that I was doing this. And later on that day, someone from his office called me back and said that Dov Hikind got Franklin printers to do the fliers for me for free! And that they would also do the displays! I was real excited about this. But now that I have someone to do the fliers for me for free, what wording would I put down? I knew I would put the 3 sayings from 3 great Rabbi’s that I had, but of course I needed a lot more. I searched at home for newspaper articles I had saved on kidney donation, and with that information, I went to Franklin Printers that Tuesday evening. When I was there, I felt totally lost. I gave them numerous papers of what to put on the flier, leaving it up to them. But when I got home, it all came to me. Hashem gave me the thought on how to word the fliers - and I felt like he was dictating to me! So that evening, I faxed the wording that I had wanted to put on the flier, to Franklin Printing. That day, I had also decided that I had wanted pens made up that would say “Save a life – donate a kidney (718)……” I felt it would be a good idea to not only hand out fliers – but to hand out pens – because, a flier people might throw out after reading – but a pen, people would hold on to and use. So if anyone in the future decides to donate a kidney, they will have a pen with a phone number on who to contact. So, anyhow, in order for me to have the pens on time, I needed to order them a few days in advance. So I took a chance to order the pens, before I even had the booth, fliers or anything! I had strong faith that I was going to have the booth and that Hashem was with me on this, so I took a risk and ordered the pens. Also, that day, Tuesday, I had gotten a call from someone who works for Rabbi Steinharter the executive director of the Bikur Cholim of Boro Park, who heard what I had wanted to do, and told me that Rabbi Steinharter, said whatever flier I have made up, he wanted to include my flier in future blood drive mailings that they will have! They too realized what and important thing this is what I am doing and how important it was to get more people to donate kidneys so that more lives can be saved! And they too must have realized that people are dying every day because there are not enough people who are willing to donate a kidney. Now I knew I really had a mission – an extra purpose for me to go through all this! Whatever it will take, and at whatever cost! In the meantime – I spoke to a couple of people who suggested to me to perhaps forget about the booth and just hand out fliers as the people come into the expo. But I said no way, I felt the best, and only way, to go with this project, was to have a booth and talk to people and inspire them and to get people to donate kidneys. Thursday morning, 2 days before the event, I had decided to call the whole thing off. I really didn’t want to. I didn’t have any fliers and banners for the booth yet and without them, I couldn’t have a booth. So I faxed a letter to the printer, telling them that I decided to call the whole thing off. After they received the fax, they called me to tell me that they started working on the flier and will have it ready in an hour and I could pick up the 3,500 fliers they had done for me for free & the 2 banners the next day – Friday – 1 day before the event, the same day I was supposed to go to the Expo to set up. I was in a dilemma. What if something comes up and they aren’t able to have it done by Friday? And here I haven’t even paid for the booth yet and it’s 2 days before the event. And what if I pay a huge sum for this booth and I won’t have the fliers and the display? What will I 8 give out? Someone tried to discourage me and said to me “what if you don’t get the booth and just hand out fliers?” No way! I decided this is the best way – this was the only way to go! This would be the most effective way to reach out to the thousands of people they were expecting – to have a booth and hand out fliers and to talk to people and to educate & encourage people to donate a kidney; so more lives can be saved. And although I was unemployed with a small bank account, I decided when it comes to saving lives,I have to do something like this, at all costs. So, I didn’t let anyone talk me out of this mitzvah. I felt Hashem was with me on this all along, he was my partner on this, and this is what I needed to do! Many times in the past I would think the other person was right – but this time I knew for sure that I was right this time – that giving out fliers wouldn’t be enough – that I needed to have a booth to hand out fliers, and to talk to people to educate them and encourage them to donate a kidney. So no one was able to discourage me from doing this! So, anyhow, I did get my fliers and banners, Friday morning as the Printers said ,and I went that afternoon, Erev Shabbos, 1 day before the event, to the Javits Center to set up the booth! *I * * * The 3 day event went well. I and another kidney donor handed out about 2,500 fliers and also pens that said “Donate a Kidney – Save a Life.” We didn’t just hand out fliers – we spoke to most of these people that we handed out fliers to – we educated them about kidney donation and inspired them. We got some people who said they would donate kidneys – and others said they would consider doing it. The seeds were planted at this event. I will never know the full impact this 3 day event. All I know, more people will end up donating kidneys as a result of my booth, and thus more lives will be saved! Who could ask for anything more? So with my perseverance and with the help of Hashem, I managed to single handedly put together this event in a very short amount of time. And I hope G-d willing, .I will be able to continue inspiring people to do this great mitzvah . * * * * Since I became interested in donating a kidney, I have been in contact with many other kidney donors. All the other kidney donors are doing very well, Boruch Hashem, and none of them have any regrets for doing this mitzvah. Like me, they wish they had another kidney to donate! If you are interested in taking part of this great mitzvah of savings one’s life by donating a kidney, or if you want more information on kidney donation, or would like to speak to me and/or other people whom have donated kidneys, please call me at (917) 627-8336 or email me at Kidney Mitzvah @ aol.com.