click here to jump to start of article
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​

Desperate for a Donor

Desperate for a Donor

My mother's kidneys are failing. Will someone help save her?

by Annette Cooper

A few weeks ago, we got the awful news about my mother.

Her kidneys are failing.

For the past 15 years, my mother has been taking a medication and we knew that it was slowly eroding her kidney function. She drastically changed her diet -- very low protein, drinking less fluids, and even trying natural remedies. In this way she was able to increase the lifespan of her kidneys.

But now the day of reckoning has come. And we are in frantic search of a kidney donor.

The Dialysis Option

In one sense, dialysis is a marvel -- big machines that simulate kidney function -- purifying the bloodstream, removing toxic wastes, and regulating the blood.

But dialysis is a tricky thing. It’s very rough on the body. Your entire system goes through an overhaul, leaving you feeling nauseated, dizzy and tired. My mother is 49 years young and is very active -- she rides her bike a few miles every day, and she’s a college English professor.

She cannot imagine dialysis sessions, three times a week, every week. Life becomes tied to the machine.

My uncle was on dialysis and died waiting for a transplant.

The other night we went out to dinner, and we all just burst into tears. My mother is very very scared.

Finding a Donor

Our goal is to find a kidney donor. But in the U.S. alone, 50,000 people are on the public waiting list. People can wait seven years for their turn, and in the meanwhile thousands die. Even after a long wait it's not so simple. One of our family friends was on the list for many years, but when his turn finally came, he was declared ineligible because he had been taking a certain medication. Life just slipped through his hands. And now he's back to waiting.

There's no way I'm going to allow you to be taken away from us.

I grew up with all four grandparents and it was such an important part of my development. My children can learn so much from my mother. I feel like that alone will help make her stronger and give her the will to live. I told my mother, "There's no way I'm going to allow you to be taken away from us."

The only hopeful option is for someone to step forward and volunteer a kidney. (People have two kidneys, and only one is needed to live a normal life.)

My husband has been networking every way he can, leaving no stone unturned. And he helped me to get a grip on my feelings and use everything I have to help my mother.

In the past weeks, we've heard many encouraging stories:

• One man who needed a kidney sent an email around to hundreds of people. It wound up in the hands of a popular radio host in New York. He talked about it on-air, and within a matter of days, 150 people had volunteered a kidney. As it turns out, only one of those 150 people was a match. They did the transplant and it was a success.

• The father of one of my childhood friends needed a kidney, and when one of his clients heard about it, she volunteered to give a kidney out of the goodness of her heart. She didn't have any children, and she saw this as her way to give life to another person. The transplant was successful.

• Two years ago at a Hadassah board meeting, an announcement was made that one of the women in attendance was in need of a kidney transplant. In a split second, another woman in the room decided that she would donate a kidney. Another life saved!

Altruistic Motives

What would motivate a person to volunteer to help a stranger in this way?

Perhaps someone in their family had passed away from kidney disease, after waiting on the list. The surviving relative would gain a sense of peace and closure by helping to spare others the same fate.

I also believe that people have an innate desire to help others. That's the whole Jewish concept of tzedakah. The Talmud tells the story about a scoffer who came up to Rebbe Akiva and said: "You should stop giving money to poor people, because it was God who made them poor, and by supporting them you're going against the will of God!"

Rebbe Akiva answered, "Why do you think God made them poor in the first place? In order that we could help them!"

People often want to help others in a significant way, but don't have the financial resources to do so. For some, this may be a realistic alternative.

In 1999, when a 10-year-old Israeli girl desperately needed a lung transplant, an awareness campaign produced a lung donor -- a British man who happened to pick up a Jewish newspaper at his neighborhood supermarket. Years earlier, he had resolved: "So few people stepped forward to help the Jews during the Holocaust. So if I can ever save a Jewish life, I'll do so."

Payment Plan

It is illegal in America and most of the world to buy a kidney from a willing donor. The law allows you to pay a donor's medical and travel expenses, and to compensate for time off work, but not to pay for the actual organ itself.

I understand that the law is designed to protect poor people, and I see how an unrestricted market of buying and selling organs could be a magnet for corruption. But on the other hand, this concern needs to be balanced with protecting the lives for those who are dying for lack of a donor.

The cost of kidney surgery is far less than the cost of dialysis.

Dr. Daniel Eisenberg wrote on that even for society, allowing the sale of makes fiscal sense. The cost of kidney surgery is far less than the cost of dialysis, which runs about $50,000 per year. Perhaps the government could regulate the sale of organs, to protect against abuse. And if this would increase the number of lives saved, then Jewish law would sanction such an approach.

From our end, it's very frustrating to imagine my mother waiting on a transplant list -- where people are dying at the rate of 18 a day.

Making the Effort

So we are urgently looking for a donor. In this case we've lost some crucial time; my mother knew the diagnosis for a few months before she told us, but because I had just given birth she didn't want to upset us. She didn't realize the urgency of the situation.

My mother's blood type is B+, which means she can accept an organ from blood-types O and B. The donor would also need compatible tissue type and blood antigens.

Adding to the urgency is that transplant surgery has a better chance of success if performed before the patient goes on dialysis. People have said that if you go for a transplant after years of dialysis, your body is all worn out, reducing the chance of a successful surgery.

It is best to use an organ from a live donor because things can be checked to make sure it's a perfect match. Also, organs from live donors are more effective than cadaver ones; a kidney from a living donor usually functions immediately, while with a cadaver kidney the patient may require dialysis until the kidney starts to function.

Health-insurance companies do not raise rates for kidney donors.

The reward of donating is so great, and the risk is low. As far as organs go, the kidney is relatively easy to remove, leaving the donor essentially unharmed. I saw a follow-up study that showed how even after 20 years, donors exhibit no increased health risks. Health-insurance companies do not even raise their rates for kidney donors.

And it's not often that one gets an opportunity to do something as significant as saving a life.

I heard a very beautiful story from Rabbi Hanoch Teller. It's the true story of a man whose kidneys were failing, and his cousin was a match. The cousin considered the idea of donating, but his wife discouraged him. Yet the cousin couldn't sleep at night, tormented by the thought that he would miss the chance to save a life. So, despite his wife's objections, he underwent the operation.

When the cousin awoke in the hospital after the operation, he saw the doctor standing over him. The doctor said that the operation was a success, but not in the way they had planned. Because when they removed the donor's kidney, they discovered a cancerous tumor which would have otherwise gone undetected. The doctor told the man: 'You came to the hospital today expecting to save a life. It turns out that through your generosity, the life you saved was your own.'

We really need to get my mother a kidney, desperately. I have hope that she will find a donor. I know that God will help me and my mom get through this. I always believe that things will work out and I know that God will help find what she needs to survive.

Those willing to donate a kidney to save a life, should please contact Renee at (718) 645-5109 or

And please pray for Rachel bat Penina.


April 8, 2006

Give Tzedakah! Help create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.
The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 15

(15) jeannie, February 14, 2010 4:10 AM

husband needs kidney

You appeal for a kidney for your mother is very endearing. So many of us have loved ones with kidney disease and no where to turn but to each other. My husband age 63 needs a kidney. He is O positive. His family is either not a match or not capable of donating. He is a father and grandfather. We would like to have him around for many years to come but that may not be possible if he does not receive a transplant. May Hashem help all of us find our health and happiness. We will continue to pray for that is all we can do for now.

(14) ray, May 25, 2006 12:00 AM

Looking For Kidney

19/y/old male on dialysis for the past year. Have had two kidney transplants. Born with kidney disease. Getting weaker everyday because dialysis hemo is not as efficiant as before. My blood type is A positive and I'm just looking for some help. So if there is anyone out there with a heart that wants to go in the eyes of god donate any organ you can weather to me or to someone else as long as it gives life to a wonderful human being! thank you for your time and may god be with you!

(13) Tamela, May 16, 2006 12:00 AM

O Type

My 68 year old father--otherwise very healthy--is looking for a donor: O blood type. Please feel free to email me at He and Mom are about to celebrate their 50th anniversary. I will pray and network for someone to match your mom.
Blessings, Tamela

(12) Anonymous, May 5, 2006 12:00 AM

talking from experience!

wow! i just saw your article that describes your desperate search for a kidney for your mother.
two years ago, at the age of 22, i donated my kidney to my father - my beloved, dear father, who was suffering from severe kidney disease. it was the most MEANINGFUL and EXHILARATING and UPLIFTING experience in my life!
i urge anyone who can be an option for kidney donation to come forward and go for testing. there is nothing as rewarding as saving a life!
i still remember that scene on friday night when i walked from my hospital room to my father's hospital room (he was in isolation) only 24 hours after surgery. i took tiny steps as the pain was strong, and finally with the help of the nurse, i reached his door and proceeded towards his bed.
there lay my beloved, dear father , attached to machines from all sides - and yet, ALIVE and alive with a HEALTHY KIDNEY that was functioning perfectly! i approached him and we EMBRACED, crying silently on each other's shoulders. there was not a dry eye in the room. at that moment, i felt such deep gratitude to Hashem that I was able to SAVE MY FATHER! WE CRIED WITH RELIEF and we cried with gratitude and we cried with joy and we cried because of the now deepened connection that we have forged that will forever remain as deep as my own existence!
there is nothing like giving another person a part of YOURSELF that GIVES HIM LIFE!!!
it is the greatest z'chus in the world!
and more than what the recipient gains - the donor gains - a heightened quality of life forever, that results from knowing that you have enabled someone else to live.
my life has changed ever since that day of the surgery.
i live a better and more enriched life.
and i am as healthy as ever!!!!!!
chasdei hashem ki lo samnu....
it's the least we can do!!!
why else did God create us with two kidneys? to give one away!
hoping to hear that you receive a donor real quick,
sending you my warmest wishes of hatzlacha and refuah,
an eternally grateful kidney donor.

(11) ortal taler-brum, May 1, 2006 12:00 AM

I know what yor family is going through

my husband has kidney disease and we live with the fear on a day to day bases. I woul love to help your family find the proper blood type is o positive and I am 23 years old ,Please let me know what bloodtype ur mother is maybe I can help

See All Comments

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment