Generally speaking, a plague is not a good time for a kidney transplant. The ironic reason: While taking drugs to prevent rejection of the kidney, one must also begin a daily regimen of drugs to lower one’s natural immunity. After my second shot, I’ve become immune to COVID, but more susceptible to common germs that could doom my new used kidney. In public places, for the foreseeable future, I remain a masked man.
Plague aside, or behind us as Bibi says, I now must concentrate on continuing my recovery; namely, to lose the 10 kilos I gained while being on my back for the first three months, and forbidden any exercise until the tenth – while taking steroids every day. While increased appetite is a noted side effect of some drugs, say medical cannabis, if one is already taking such medication, the result is often the effect of the munchies on steroids.
Fortunately, those of us with good discipline can deal with this problem. After the latest and hopefully last lockdown, I have resumed swimming my daily laps, a routine I developed during a year of dialysis while waiting for a kidney. I used to swim to Tel Aviv and back each year, in total kilometers. So far, I’ll be lucky to get as far as Mevaseret, although each lap brings me closer to the skinny jeans in my closet, waiting patiently.
This Passover is particularly well timed, falling at the season so many people claim as their own, sometimes wistfully, like the erstwhile Arab Spring or Prague Spring. Everybody wants spring, but so few do anything to bring it about, ideologically speaking.
The traditional cleaning for the holiday is a convenient metaphor for spiritual renewal, all the hard physical work that culminates in the Seder, the point of it all, when we spiritually connect with the events that made us a people, and are encouraged to talk about it into the night.
This year almost everyone will finally sit down at a live Seder table, thinking of the contrast with last year on Zoom. I was particularly grateful for Zoom, since last year my wife held the Haggadah for me as I lay in bed at our Seder for two. She is four months older, so I asked the questions.
“Last year we were slaves, this year we are free.” What a spring-like promise of renewal! We are hopefully beginning a time of increasing freedom from the bondage of a mysterious, deadly pandemic – if we don’t blow it again. The incredibly speedy development of vaccines was science at its best – some might call it miraculous.
I call it miraculous that, after two years of waiting, including a year of painful dialysis, I finally got a kidney – after my original donor was rejected shortly before surgery was scheduled. Then, two weeks before Passover, something indeed miraculous occurred.
This is one of those stories that can happen only in Israel, where the spiritual bonds that unite our people are often made physical through marriage and children – but only by organ donation do they actually become life-savingly physical.
I am blessed to have it both ways. Our four children, born in Jerusalem starting 42 years ago, have given us 11 grandchildren so far, who represent the fulfillment of the Zionist ideology of kibbutz galuyot, the ingathering of the exiles. Our family extends from Basra in the East to Montreal in the West, from Kiev in the North to Tunis in the South. I had Kurdish-Polish-Russian grandchildren years before I received an Iraqi kidney. The only noticeable side effect was an increased appetite for kubeh.
With kidney disease, it’s a long, winding road that sometimes leads to a dead end. I was bountifully blessed with the best medical care at Hadassah-University Medical Center in Ein Kerem and the love of my greater family. It also helped that I am self-disciplined, trained by my father, when I’m knocked down, to get up again.
In partial illustration: I had to go on a future-transplant diet and have preliminary surgery in my left arm, to insert what is called a fistula, to handle the greater blood pressure of dialysis. For this I lost 22 kilos, down from 96 to 74 (my weight in junior year). In a year of dialysis, twice a week, my weight rose to its stable 81 kilos after 132 dialysis sessions. As two large-bore needles are inserted every time, this meant a total of 264 holes in my left arm, the last on the night before surgery.
The next morning, my life was renewed. Elation, relief, gratitude flowing like a river. Eager to begin the long year of recovery, I plunged back into work two days later from my hospital bed laptop. I was relieved to find out how much work I could do lying down for the first three months, but that’s all I could do – no exercise until two months ago. Lots of people gained weight during a year of lockdowns, but at least I have an excuse – for now.
The writer is a former chief copy editor and editorial writer of The Jerusalem Post. His novel, The Flying Blue Meanies, is available on Amazon.