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July 29, 2014 / 2 Av, 5774
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A Kidney For A Stranger

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Marsha Klein had been looking after the elderly Mrs. Baumgarten for several months. She used to see her every morning and help her arise, and get showered and dressed. The two would then have breakfast together and spend some time chatting and taking a slow, gentle walk around their Jerusalem neighborhood. They had become good friends during the months they had spent time together.

One day Mrs. Baumgarten told Marsha that her daughter’s mechutan, Yitzchak, was suffering from kidney failure and would soon have to start dialysis. Marsha sympathized, as her own brother’s sister-in-law was also very sick with kidney disease. She had to be on the dialysis machine regularly, and even so was still weak and sick. She was on a list for a donor but so far none had been found.

As the weeks passed, Yitzchak’s condition deteriorated further. Mrs. Baumgarten explained the process in which all of Yitzchak’s children and siblings were undergoing medical and psychological tests to determine if they were able to give one of their healthy kidneys to Yitzchak.

Kidney transplants from a living donor are infinitely preferable over a transplant from a dead person. The chances of it being rejected by the body are much lower, the life expectancy of the newly transplanted kidney is twice as high, and the recipient’s life and diet can return to normal much faster.

All of the potential donors undergo very thorough medical tests to ensure that they are completely healthy and show no sign of suffering from any kind of health problem that could be adversely affected by the operation or having to live with only one kidney.

Since one of the children was found to be as perfect a match as possible, the transplant was carried out. Over the course of the following months, Mrs. Baumgarten reported that Yitzchak was recovering very well and what a chesed it was that he had gone from being a truly sick person whose entire life was dominated by the regular dialysis treatment to being a new, healthy person.

Several months later Mrs. Baumgarten – with tremendous pride – had another story to tell, this time about her grandson. He too had been tested as a potential match for his father-in-law even though the chances that he could be the donor were low because he wasn’t a blood relative.

He was so disappointed that he couldn’t fulfill the mitzvah of saving his father-in-law’s life that he asked for his details to be transferred to every donor registry. He thought that one day he could save someone else’s life.

And then his turn came. He was found to be a perfect match for someone, a Jewish person in America. He traveled to the U.S. and the transplant operation was carried out. Mrs. Baumgarten took out a piece of paper from her bag and said, “We’re all davening, for my grandson and for the recipient, that the operation should be successful, that they should both recover quickly and that the recipient’s body shouldn’t reject the new kidney.” She asked, “Can I give you the names as well, to daven for and say a few chapters of Tehillim when you have time?”

Marsha readily agreed, expressing admiration for the grandson who so selflessly agreed to help save a total stranger’s life. She took out a pen and piece of paper and started to write as Mrs. Baumgarten dictated the names: Mordechai Yosef ben Sarah and Rivkah bas Devorah Yael.

Marsha stopped in the middle of writing and stared at Mrs. Baumgarten. “Rivkah bas Deovrah Yael? I’ve been davening for her for so long. That’s my brother’s sister-in-law. It’s unbelievable. Of all the people in the world, your grandson just donated his kidney to my relative.”

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