For the week ending 26 September 2020 / 8 Tishri 5781

An Open Letter from an Ohr Somayach Alumnus

by Rabbi Shlomo Simon
Library Library Library

More than ten years ago it was discovered that my wife had a disease known as polycystic kidneys. She was informed that within a few years her kidneys would stop functioning completely and she would require a transplant. To obtain a transplant she would need to find a person who would be willing to donate one of their kidneys to put in my wife's body.

As her kidneys became weaker and weaker and the cloud of dialysis hung over her head, a 53 year old mother of five children heard of our need and answered our prayers. It was seven years ago that the transplant took place, but the new kidney never functioned properly. Every time a woman gives birth, her body develops antibodies that make accepting another person's organ more difficult. Linda's health began to deteriorate. She had to leave her job due to lack of strength and stamina. Linda spent many weeks in the hospital. She had no choice but to go on dialysis.

The search for another altruistic donor began, but the doctors and the organizations that help people find donors had little hope. A woman who gave birth seven times and had already received a transplant has such a high level of antibodies that there is hardly a person in the world whose kidney would function in her body.

We made a trip to a hospital in Toledo, Ohio, where many kidney transplants are performed. But our hopes were dashed. We then made contact with the Irgun Renewal in Boro Park, an organization that has arranged 600 kidney transplants. Renewal told us to go to Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx for preliminary tests in case they found a donor for us. Their first piece of advice was to buy American Insurance, whatever the cost, in case a suitable donor was found.

They told us to go home and wait. Maybe they would find a needle in a haystack. We waited for close to a year. We were resigning ourselves to the fact that Linda may have to spend the rest of her life doing twelve hours of dialysis a week, and suffer all of the physical and mental stress that dialysis brings.

A month ago, on Motzei Shabbos, we received an email from Renewal saying that they had a match for us. We would have to be in New York in ten days to spend two weeks in quarantine before the hospital would agree to do a transplant. We immediately made travel arrangements. With the help of a friend we found a place to stay in Monsey.

It is a strict policy of Renewal that there be no contact between the donor and the recipient until after the transplant. All we knew about the donor was that he was from Baltimore. He requested from us a letter of beracha from Reb Chaim and Elimelech Biderman. We were already in America, and so our sons took care of this matter. Because of his request, we found out that his name is Meir Yitzchak ben Nechama.

Last Wednesday, the 20th of Elul, the transplant took place. The surgeon was an Orthodox doctor from Teaneck, Dr. Stuart Grenstein.

My daughter and I were sitting in the "Kosher Room" in the hospital during the five hour procedure, when a lady walked in and sat down. She told us that her husband was in the process of having one of his kidneys removed and given to a woman, Leeba bas Hadassah. She said that her husband was giving a kidney as a z'chus for the neshama of his father. We told her who we were, and then I asked her the family name of her husband.

When she told me the family name I was overwhelmed with emotion. I had to leave the room. The first thing I did was to call Rabbi Yehuda Samet (with whom I speak at least twice a week). I was sure he would want to know.

Who is the donor?

Meir Yitzchak ben Ze'ev Kraines.

B"H, the transplant was a success. Linda feels like a new woman and she is steadily recovering from the effects of surgery.

We will be in Monsey for two more months, as my wife has to go back to Montefiore every few days for standard tests and observation.

Ohr Somayach saves lives in many different ways.

Shana tova,

Nachum Hirschel

Rabbi Simon’s note:

Not only is the author of the letter an Ohr Somayach Jerusalem alumnus, but the kidney donor, Meir Yitzchak Kraines is the son of one of our first alumni, Rabbi Ze'ev Kraines, zatzal. Rabbi Kraines was sent by the Yeshiva to Johannesburg, South Africa in the early 1990's to head the community in Sandton, a Johannesburg suburb. He led that community as its Rav for nearly 30 years. He was niftar earlier this year in Israel.

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