Meir Panim’s Tiberias Free Restaurant not only provides warm meals, but the opportunity to socialize as well.
The Jewish Press recently sat down with Chaya Lipschutz, a Brooklyn woman who saved the life of a stranger.
Chaya, please tell our readers a little about yourself?
I am an Orthodox Jewish woman from Brooklyn, who donated a kidney altruistically back in Sept 2005 after seeing an ad in The Jewish Press. The ad read: “Please help save a Jewish life – New Jersey mother of 2 in dire need of kidney – Whoever saves one life from Israel it is as if they saved an entire nation.”
Since then, I have wanted to do more, so I now have a project to help others who need a kidney. I don’t get paid or charge a fee.
What made you decide to donate your kidney?
I had seen another ad in The Jewish Press for someone else who was in need of a kidney that said, “Be mekayem a once in a lifetime mitzvah. Modern easy process for donor.” I called up the hospital. They sent me info. Didn’t sound like such a big deal to me.
What was the reaction of your family and friends?
I told only one sister, and she was supportive. I only told 2 friends – both were somewhat supportive, but one was fearful the day before I donated. After I donated a kidney, she considered doing the same.
My beloved mother, a”h, a very special woman, who was involved with many great mitzvos in her lifetime had a fear of surgery, so I had to keep it a secret from her. That was the toughest part of my kidney donation.
My mother did find out, after I came out of surgery, as planned. She took it well, Baruch Hashem. She said it was, “Min Hashamayim” – meant to be.
Being that I wanted to help others and it was hard to get donors, I asked my brother if he could donate a kidney to someone on my list. I decided to ask my mother first, if it would be ok. She had no problem with him donating a kidney, as she saw how well I did. And he did great as well, Baruch Hashem!
Did you get a chance to meet your recipient?
Yes, we didn’t plan to meet, but when I went to the hospital for the first time for the tests to see if we were a match, my recipient was there. If the donor and recipient want to have contact with each other early on in the process, they usually can.
What is the age range for kidney donation?
Many hospitals say that people as young as 18 years old can donate a kidney. That may depend on the maturity of the individual. Some hospitals have a minimum age of 21.
Maximum age to donate a kidney – some hospitals have a cut off age of 70. However, it varies. The oldest person I heard about who donated a kidney in the United States was 73 years old. But at that age, most people are no longer healthy enough to donate.
Are there risks?
Yes, there are risks, including bleeding and infection, as with any surgical procedure. There is also a small risk of dying in surgery – 3 in 10,000.
What tests are used to determine if someone can be a kidney donor?
First you will be tested to see if you match your recipient. Then a full physical examination will be done. Tests include, blood, urine, X-Ray, EKG and a CT scan on the kidneys.
Extensive medical testing is done to ensure the donor is healthy. Interestingly enough, the testing has saved many lives. People who thought they were healthy discovered medical issues they would not have known about if not for the extensive amount of tests.
Who covers the medical cost?
The recipients insurance pays for all the testing and surgery related to the kidney donation. Employees of the federal government receive 30 days paid leave for organ donation. Also, depending on the state you live in, one may be able to receive a tax deduction of up to $10,000 for lost wages or travel expenses.
Have any donors regretted their decision?
No, in fact, most of the donors I have been in contact with wish they could do it again. Some have told me that they are interested in donating their liver – which is riskier, even though liver regenerates. In the meantime, some donors I know have gotten others to donate a kidney as well!
What would be your rebuttal to people that oppose organ donation?
There are many rabbanim and doctors who support kidney donation. Dr. Greenstein, Kidney Transplant Surgeon, and Professor of Surgery, at Montefiore Medical Center commented, “Just think, people have no problem having only one kidney, so we have to ask, why did Hashem, give us two kidneys? Perhaps it is so you would have an extra one to donate and save a life!”
How do you spread the word about kidney donation?
I occasionally post on Jewish Internet groups, Craig’s list and Facebook. I have had people donate a kidney mostly as a result of Jewish Internet groups. Sometimes, I have people who contact me as a result of an Internet search, as there have been many articles written about my work.
What message do you have to our readers?
If you or someone you know is in need of a kidney and have family members who are healthy enough to donate, please have them be tested first. Unfortunately, because of the great shortage of kidney donors, we can’t help everyone. If a family member or relative in particular, is not the right blood type or not a match, then sign up for a kidney swap program. Most hospitals are connected with a swap program. I know of one person who needed a kidney. She was type O and her mother was type B. The mother went into the kidney swap program, and two months later the daughter had her kidney. (In order for her daughter to get the kidney, the mother donated to someone else in the swap program.)
For those considering kidney donation: Kidney donors are desperately needed! Close to 100,000 people in the United States are in need of a kidney and thousands of people die each year while they wait. Most people on dialysis have 2 kidneys – when one goes, the other goes at the same time; most dialysis patients die within 10 years. Afraid of living with one kidney – 1 out of approximately every 750 people are born with one kidney and may never know it!
Surgery for kidney donation is done laproscopically and the hospital stay is usually 1-2 days. Most people I know went back to work 2 weeks later. There is no special diet required or medication. And it does not affect one’s ability to have children.
Life is the same with one kidney as with two! I truly hope more people will consider giving the gift of life – the greatest gift of all!
Chaya’s kidney donation project is endorsed by Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser who says, “Chaya’s work is real hatzalah. To put it simply, she’s involved in saving lives. I encourage all who can to support her work or to actually become a donor, and to take part in this choshuve mitzvah. It is a Dovar Sheomaid B’romo Shel Olam (From Rabbi Goldwasser’s book “Tishrei” – page 6)
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For more information about living donation, visit the National Kidney Foundation’s website www.livingdonors.org.
* * * * *
KidneyMitzvah.org – www.KidneyMitzvah.org
Renewal.org – www.Renewal.org
Matnat Chaim – www.kilya.org.il/en/
Halachic Organ Donation Society (HODS.org) – www.hods.org
National Kidney Foundation – www.kidney.org
Living Kidney Donors Network – www.lkdn.org
Living Kidney Donors Alliance – “Guided Comfort Throughout Your Journey” – www.lkda.org
The Organ Donor Experience: Good Samaritans and the Meaning of Altruism – by Katrina Bramstedt, Rena Down
“About kidney donation” – Dr. Lloyd Ratner – www.columbiakidneytransplant.org/guide.html
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