Reflections on the 2nd anniversary of my kidney transplant

Whenever someone asks me how I am, I think for a moment and answer: wonderful.

 The Chaim clan at Mitzpe Masua in the British Park. (photo credit: COURTESY ILAN CHAIM)
The Chaim clan at Mitzpe Masua in the British Park.
(photo credit: COURTESY ILAN CHAIM)
Jerusalem Report logo small (credit: JPOST STAFF)Jerusalem Report logo small (credit: JPOST STAFF)

Being granted the gift of life a second time, after taking the first one largely for granted for 71 years, is a wondrous experience. It’s like being born again, though with an adult’s suddenly clearer understanding of things past.

Living for a time five years ago under the steadily approaching threat of total kidney failure, there were only two possibilities of survival: a kidney donation or dialysis for the remainder of my life.

Joining about a hundred others on the waiting list, my deteriorating condition forced me to begin dialysis. Three times a week, a marvelous machine would clean my blood for four hours. The upside: for a year I saw at least 12 hours of Netflix series and movies each week, while hooked up to the dialysis machine with two large-bore needles each session. This added up to 264 holes in my left arm, from which I’m still recovering, two years after dialysis was replaced by my miraculous transplant.

Much has been written in these pages about my transplant, but not about the new life it has enabled. For one thing, the sudden reprieve after living under a death sentence for three years was liberating. Suddenly, all the pressures of making a living while trying to function with steadily impairing health simply evaporated. I was given a clean slate.

This awakened me, stimulated me, freed at last to produce months of creativity. I finished and published my debut novel, and wrote a biography and reviews of other authors, all lying in bed with my laptop during the first 10 months of recovery. I began that lockdown after the transplant operation on March 25, 2020, just as the rest of the world was beginning to live with the corona lockdown.

Kidney transplant operation at Rambam Hospital in Haifa (credit: PIOTR FLITR)Kidney transplant operation at Rambam Hospital in Haifa (credit: PIOTR FLITR)

Not even the plague could dent my newfound optimism at being alive again. I bought a sports car, a convertible, and relived some of the joys of youth. I began working on a sequel to my novel, all while continuing to work at my day job editing an Internet newspaper site from home. For the first time in 10 years, I missed editing only two editions while in the hospital.

Whenever someone asks me how I am, I think for a moment and answer: wonderful. For I am still overflowing with wonder at being alive and having so much to live for, particularly my 12 grandchildren. Despite a lingering sense of youthfulness, I have finally abandoned thinking about my age as being around 26, and accepted the municipality’s categorization as an elderly citizen.

Such a realization does not come easily. It sneaks up on you, one grandchild at a time, till you’re surrounded by an intensity of loving and cuddling. There is a sense of increased responsibility as I watch them grow, with the awareness that I made aliyah and founded a clan, a dynasty.

Cherishing life at this time of war is a moral imperative. I watch Ukraine’s suffering and thank my grandparents for their daring and stamina in fleeing Ukraine a hundred years ago and ending up in Pittsburgh. There they founded a Pittsburgh dynasty of Ukrainian Jews by having three children, who married and gave them 11 grandchildren, one of whom made aliyah.

Fifty years later, I look back and realize I have founded a new Israeli dynasty, three generations old. I think about their future without me and am reassured: 12 grandchildren will marry and beget the next generation of Israelis, and so on. All that “to build and be rebuilt” stuff is real.

How to get rich in Jerusalem

I first came to the park in San Simon in 1968a penniless college studenthitchhiking through Israel on his first visitToday I come to my neighborhood park with my 12 grandchildren

The writer is a former chief copy editor and editorial writer at The Jerusalem Post. His debut novel, The Flying Blue Meanies, is available on Amazon.