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Save One Life, Save A World

Judith Nussbaum last spring promoting ADI at a booth in the Rishon Lezion mall.

Judith Nussbaum, who was donated a kidney, writes her story and urges joining the transplant registry. 

"Whosoever preserves a single soul, scripture ascribes merit to him as though he had preserved a complete world" (Mishna Tractate Sanhedrin)

THE SELFLESS compassionate act of a young Australian gave personal meaning to these quotes. Three years ago, Martin saved my life by donating his kidney to me.

My story begins nine years ago when I contracted the flu. My blood tests indicated that I was in the early stages of renal failure and I was referred to a nephrologists at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, who confirmed the diagnosis.

"OK, what does that mean?" I asked, "Well," he replied, "it means that you and I will be in contact for the rest of our lives." I didn't believe him.

The road to the transplant took six years. I religiously followed a renal diet, but after two years I began to feel terrible, my blood count dropped dangerously low, frequently I felt faint and slept most of the day. To increase the blood count I gave myself renal hormone injections and received iron infusions.

The nephrologists suggest that the time for dialysis was approaching and I should prepare myself for having a fistula created in my left arm to enable dialysis. I was shocked. Had it come to this? I could not believe it. I was still in denial.

In February 2005, when my creatinine level reached 6.5 and my clearance fell to 11, I began dialysis. Finally, I accepted that this was really happening to me. No more deluding myself that "this too will pass". I had important decisions to make – to continue dialysis for the rest of my life, to stop dialysis and die, or to find a new kidney. Because of my daughters, I decided to search for a kidney.

Easier said than done. After completing the medical tests required to be eligible for placement on the National Organ Transplant list, I met with the director of the organ transplant unit at Beilinson Hospital, who, after reviewing my test, assured me that I was a good candidate, but that the wait for a compatible cadaver kidney could take as long as five years.

That didn't work for me. When I returned home I began surfing the net for a donor. My quest took four months. I approached the project seriously, spending several hours on the computer each day. I contacted everyone on my email list, including my alumni associations, the organizations to which I belonged, and every organ donor / transplant site I could find. Eventually, Martin altruistically offered his kidney 'to save my life'.

Martin agreed to have primary tests in Australia prior to traveling to Israel. In November 2005, Martin arrived in Tel Aviv, and on December 12, 2005, after a month of physical and psychological tests, the transplant was successfully performed at Beilinson Hospital.

Martin's recovery was rapid and total. Several months after the operation he ran the London Marathon, besting his previous record. We are in frequent communication and I consider him a member of my family.

Today my life is good. I have the energy I had thirty years ago, enjoy an active life including volunteering for ADI, the Israel Organ Donor Organization, and video taping interviews of people seeking an organ transplant for the HODS Organ Donor Society website.

I was lucky, but not everyone is. Most people are not able to be pro-active and find their own donors. That is why it is so important that people be educated to the tremendous and ever increasing need for organ donors – living and cadaver – and sign the ADI card.

In March, 2008, the Knesset approved a law to regulate organ donations in compliance with the Jewish law. A committee, including rabbis, doctors and ethicists, now authorizes doctors responsible for determining the moment of death, thus enabling dozens of people. Previously hesitant, to register as potential organ donors, thereby saving from 100-200 lives each year.

Should there be a question of a religious nature the Halachic Organ Donor Society founded by Robby Berman to educate people about the medical and halachic issues surrounding organ donations, and working with ADI, will reply to your concerns. The HODS site features leading orthodox rabbis in Israel and abroad presenting their positive opinions regarding organ donations as well as videos of people requiring transplants.

Those who sign the Ministry of Health's ADI donor card ( will not only be saving a life, perhaps several lives, but also if they are ever in need of a transplant they will be given priority on the list. ADI, founded in memory of Ehud Ben Dror, a young man who died in 1978 for lack of a kidney donor, solicits and registers potential donors. Currently there are 462,000 potential donors on the ADI list, according to 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. Today there are 560 Israelis, including 30 children, waiting for a kidney, 70 for a lung, 120 for a heart, 125 for a liver and several for a pancreas.

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 website; and it may be requested by calling 1 800 609 610 or by writing to The National Transplant Center, 15 Moah Mozes Street, Tel Aviv 67442

"Do not stand idly by as the blood of your neighbor Is being shed." (Leviticus 19:16) The biblicalcommentator Rashi explains this to mean: Do not watch him die when you can save him. 



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