Pinkesz, now 25 and married with two children, agreed to start the process with the support of his wife, Rachel and family. “Rachel knew this topic was very dear to me and she was very supportive. I had to have psychological evaluation, meet with a social worker, an independent doctor, a surgeon, have a CAT scan and an MRI, etc.” said Pinkesz, “They will take one of the two lobes of the liver, but they need to make sure they can leave a big enough piece for the donor.” Once Pinkesz cleared the evaluation, he needed to wait a required three months before the hospital would schedule the surgery.
Members of the transplant team said that the transplant on July 14 between Yitzchok Pinkesz and Leba Katzen was the first in New York state where an adult living liver donor was unknown to the recipient. Adult to child donations under these circumstances have been done in the past.
While Pinkesz said he woke up from surgery and felt like it was just another day, Katzen woke up from her surgery and recited the blessing of Mechaye Hamaysim,” blessing G-d for resurrecting her from the dead. The two did not communicate before the surgery and Katzen did not know who her donor was. The two met the day Pinkesz was released from the hospital.
“It was very emotional for me. I am so thankful that this young person with two kids willingly put himself under the knife for me. I was blown away and he made it like he did nothing,” she said. “I felt like I was on my deathbed and he gave me a new lease on life. When the doctors saw my liver, they told me I must have been sicker longer than they had thought. I had such a hard time just making it through the day the last few months.”
Katzen works for Rockland County as an early intervention special education therapist but she needed to take a leave and go on disability when her health deteriorated. While she still feels weak and is physically recovering from this major surgery, her body seems to be accepting the new liver and she feels optimistic. “We got here to this point; we are going to get further.” She said that she feels she saw Hashem involved in so many aspects of the process, “No one gets a donation so quickly from a stranger.”
Pinkesz, who is a software developer, is recovering now at his in-laws home in Brooklyn. Four to six weeks after surgery, his liver should be back to 80 percent of its original size, according to the New York-Presbyterian/Columbia Center website. Pinkesz hopes that people will learn more about organ donation and will learn how to sign up for organ donation after death. He has saved one life, but has impacted everyone in Katzen’s world.
For more information on signing a halachic organ donor card, contact www.HODS.org.