Rare organ swap saves Filipina, Israeli mother-in-law

In second incident, family Shahar Gabai, a soldier who was killed in a crash on her 21st birthday, donates her organs to be used in transplant.

By
April 15, 2011 01:46
3 minute read.
Shahar Gabai's family donated her organs.

Shahar Gabai 311. (photo credit: Israel Transplant)

When the sister of an ill 28-year-old Filipina living in Israel was found not to be a potential kidney donor for her, her future looked bleak. But a highly unusual organ-donation swap saved both the sick woman and an Israeli whose son-in-law wanted to give her a kidney but who was also incompatible with his relative.

It was the first kidney swap arrangement to occur here in 10 years, after the practice fell into disuse because of the dearth of O+ blood types that make them universal donors.

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Israel Transplant coordinator Tamar Ashkenazi said the Health Ministry was again trying to encourage these arrangements, in which relatives of kidney patients who cannot donate an organ to them because their tissue does not match are paired with the families of other patients. The swap has made possible many hundreds of extra kidney donations in the Netherlands, the US and other parts of the world.

Silvia Milrod, an 83-year-old immigrant from Canada who lives in Tel Aviv, helped finance the effort to save the life of her Filipina caregiver Vivian’s 28-year-old daughter. The younger woman had 12 years ago received a kidney donated by her mother abroad, when she was 16, but it deteriorated and she needed another transplant while living with her mother Vivian in Tel Aviv.

The recipient’s older sister, who lives in the Philippines, was thought to be a compatible donor and agreed to fly to Israel. After much bureaucracy was overcome, the older sister was allowed to fly to Israel and received health insurance to make the operation possible.

“But the sister was found here not to be an ideal donor, so it was decided to find another solution,” Milrod said. “A young man who wanted to donate a kidney to his mother-in-law was not compatible but was a good match for Vivian’s sick daughter, so a swap was arranged.”

The removal of the kidney and transplant into the Israeli recipient were performed at the Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus in Petah Tikva by department head Prof. Eitan Mor, and the procedures at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov Hospital), where the Filipinas had their operations performed by department chief Prof. Richard Nakache. All four operations were undertaken on Monday, and all patients are doing well.



“It has been an emotional and physical ride,” Milrod told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. “I am happy that things are going very well. I went to Ichilov to be there during the operations.”

Milrod said she and her husband, Ralph, came on aliya from Toronto 14 years ago. “He subsequently developed Parkinson’s disease and needed a Filipino caregiver at home and in the nursing institution. His name was Arnold, and he was so devoted. But after Ralph died, Arnold was forced to leave Israel because of the stupid rules here. He could not stay on and work for somebody else. No Israeli could do for my husband what Arnold did.”

Milrod said that her own mother had a Filipina caregiver in Calgary in Canada and was so well taken care of for 10 years that she had a high quality of life and lived to the ripe old age of 93.

“It is important not for us Israelis but for the world to see what miracles are being done here on a daily basis. Israelis and Filipinas willing to exchange kidneys send a message of saving lives. Publicity here is always so negative,” she said.

Meanwhile, a terrible tragedy – the death in a road accident of 21-year-old Shahar Gabai on her birthday and the day she completed her military service – ended with the saving of other lives on Thursday.

Her family agreed to donate some of her organs after she suffered lowerbrain death. Her parents said that Gabai carried an ADI organ donor card from the age of 18 and would have wanted to save others. Transplants were performed at Ichilov and Beilinson before Gabai’s sad funeral.

People who want an ADI card can call *6262 or go to www.kartisadi.org.il.


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