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In the Mishna's Tractate Sanhedrin it is written:
"Whosoever preserves a single soul, scripture ascribes merit to him as though he had preserved a complete world."
Exodus 21:19 states: "You shall surely heal." In Leviticus 19:16 we read: "Do not stand idly by as the blood of your neighbor is being shed."
The biblical commentator Rashi explains this to mean: Do not watch him die when you can save him.
The selfless, compassionate act of a young Australian, Martin Filla, gave personal meaning to these quotes. Last December, Martin saved my life by donating his kidney to me.
Six years ago, when I was diagnosed with chronic renal failure, I was told that eventually I would have to be on dialysis. Two years ago I began to feel weak, became severely anemic and developed an elevated creatinine level.
A year later, my nephrologist, Prof. Debra Rubinger of Hadassah Hospital, suggested that Dr. David Shemesh of Shaare Zedek Hospital construct a fistula in my left arm in preparation for dialysis, which I began last February.
I found dialysis emotionally and physically painful. My life was becoming very limited since my activities had to revolve around the three days a week I was attached to the machine. After each session I was totally wiped out, and resolved to get a transplant.
After completing the tests required by Israeli Medical Association to qualify for the Israel National Kidney Transplantation List, I met with Prof. Etyan Mor, director of the Organ Transplantation Unit of Beilinson Hospital. When Mor informed me that the wait for a compatible cadaver kidney could be several years, I decided to search the Web for a donor. It can be done, but it requires a lot of time and determination.
TWELVE PEOPLE responded to my on-line plea, including Martin Filla. Martin, a member of an international Christian organization that, among other projects, is devoted to "bringing light and happiness into the world by donating kidneys to patients requiring transplants, and to improving the world and making it a better place by saving lives," saved mine.
Last November, after a lengthy correspondence and numerous telephone calls, Martin and his friend James, who had donated his kidney to a man in Baltimore two years earlier, arrived in Israel. On December 12, 2005, the transplant was performed in Beilinson Hospital.
Martin was my Hanukka miracle.
He was released from hospital several days after the operation and returned home ready to resume his normal activities; I was released a few days later. We are in constant communication.
I email him after every check-up to let him know how "our" kidney is doing. He knows that I will always be grateful to him, and that we will be in each other's lives forever.
Recently, several of my friends decided to honor Martin by establishing a JNF garden in his name in Jerusalem. He was very moved by the gesture and told me that he hopes to visit his garden "one day soon."
BUT THE question is where are the Israeli donors? The need in Israel for organ donors, living and cadaver, is tremendous and growing each year.
Last year, 260 organ transplants were performed here and 126 abroad; however, 89 patients died waiting for a transplant. Today there are approximately 800 Israelis on the list for a kidney, liver, heart, lung or cornea transplant.
In Israel, only 4% of the population has signed the Ministry of Health's ADI cadaver organ donor card - an unacceptably low number.
Each person has his or her own reason for choosing not to be an organ donor. More often than not, it is the result of misinformation.
For instance, it is not true that elderly people or people with illnesses cannot donate their organs. They can. Others may have religious misgivings. These questions can be satisfactorily answered by turning to halachic authorities that deal with the issue.
THOSE WHO sign the Ministry of Heath's donor card (www.health.gov.il/transplant) will be saving a life, perhaps several lives. ADI, founded in memory of Ahud Ben Dror, a young man who died while waiting for a kidney, is administered by Tamar Ashkenazi, general director of Israel's National Transplant Center.
The center focuses on raising public awareness of the need for vital organs, which can save and maintain the lives of hundreds of people awaiting organ transplants, and on maintaining the Transplant Registry through which donors and recipients are matched.
ADI offers the opportunity to make the difference between life and death. The application is included when you renew your driver's license; it is found on the ADI Web site; and it may be requested by calling 1-800-609-610 or by writing to The National Transplant Center, 15 Noah Mozes Street, Tel Aviv 67442.
Today, during the period between Pessah and Shavuot, while we are counting the Omer and taking stock of our lives, it behooves each of us to consider saving a life by becoming an organ donor.
The writer, a resident of Rishon Letzion, is a retired tour guide and now co-chairman of the Unity Coalition for Israel. firstname.lastname@example.org