PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN stands with family members of organ donors at ADI ceremony. .
(photo credit: MARK NAYMAN)
In an emotionally charged event on Wednesday, President Reuven Rivlin and his wife Nechama hosted donors and recipients of life-saving organs in a tribute to ADI, the National Transplant Center.
The center was named for Adi Ben-Dror, a young man who waited for a kidney transplant that was ultimately unsuccessful.
While waiting for a donor, he asked his parents why there was no such thing as a donor card that would authorize using the cardholder’s organs after his or her death to save another person’s life.
After Adi’s death, Devorah and Shmuel Ben-Dror, acting on his idea, established the ADI card registration system, which is under the administration of the Health Ministry.
Rivlin – who is one of some 824,000 Israelis who carry ADI cards – and the other speakers at the event emphasized that there was nothing more noble or worthwhile than the gift of life.
The president called on all Israelis to add their names to the ADI register. He said he had done so long ago, and that he carried his ADI card with him wherever he went.
Aware that some families had to make this difficult decision themselves when their loved ones died in hospitals without having registered as organ donors, Rivlin – with warmth and admiration – told those gathered: “You chose life.”
While no one can force a family to donate organs if religious beliefs or other reasons prevent them from doing so, Rivlin continued, there is still much that can be done to increase awareness and willingness.
One element of organ donation is that no one can stipulate the creed, color or gender of the recipient; the organs simply go toward saving at least one life – sometimes as many as four or five lives. The president noted that among the ADI success stories were a Jew who had received an Arab heart, and an Arab whose sight had been restored through the gift of Jewish corneas. There is a settler breathing through the lungs of a Tel Avivian, and a secular man who owes his kidneys to a haredi man, he said.
Rivlin voiced his belief in making organ donation a national mission, stating, “It is important to examine the proposals of the Committee for the Advancement of Organ Donations in Israel, which was established by former health minister Yael German, and a number of MKs who proposed ‘the obligation to decide’ model. In particular, we must invest in education, and we must constantly remind Israeli society that ‘he who saves one life, saves an entire world’” – a quote from the Mishna.
Ruth Rudnick, 75, who underwent a heart transplant 18 years ago, recounted that she had been born with a heart murmur and had been unable to participate in gym at school. She had an exemption from the army because of her heart condition, married at 21 and gave birth to three children. Over the years, her condition deteriorated, and she was told that she needed a transplant. She waited a year and a half for a donor.
The transplant took place in November 1996, just before Hanukka; she and her family call it their Hanukka miracle.
After the operation, she became very active: She took up sports and won a gold medal in an international power-walking competition, and today she participates in competitive sports events in Israel and abroad. She also went back to school and will receive her degree from Bar-Ilan University in July.
“At age 57, I was born again,” she said.
Yusra Ashour, a Muslim resident of Jaffa, lost two of her sons, Nur and Hatem, in two separate road accidents and donated their organs – even though her religion does not approve of removing organs from the dead. Her community all but ostracized her, accusing her of being a bad mother, but she felt that if she could give life to someone else, her sons were still living, albeit in a different way.
“Very few events are as moving as this,” said Health Ministry director-general Prof.
Arnon Afek, adding, “Everything we have done as physicians pales in comparison with what you [the donors’ families] have done at the height of your grief.”
Prof. Rafi Beyar, chairman of the transplant center’s steering committee, said that 183 lives had been saved through organ transplants in the past year.