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(l-r): Dr. Aviva Goldberg, (Director, Canadian Society of Transplantation), Adas Yeshurun Herzlia Rabbi Yossi Benarroch, kidney recipient Marshall Miller and kidney donor Naama Miller

By MYRON LOVE
Readers may be familiar with the Red Cross slogan – “It’s in you to give” – in its efforts to encourage more blood donations. The same thought can be applied to organ donations.

 

Just over a year ago, Winnipegger Marshall Miller underwent surgery for a kidney transplant – with the kidney donated by Naama, his wife of 28 years. On Tuesday, December 11, Miller was one of three panelists highlighting an evening – co-hosted by the Rady JCC and the Winnipeg Branch of the National Council of Jewish Women of Canada – whose purpose was to raise awareness of organ donation.
Miller told his story to about 70 people who were present this evening with humour and emotion. Readers may remember an earlier article written by Kinzey Posen last December  about Marshall and Naama Miller and the kidney transplant. To summarize, Miller was diagnosed with kidney disease in his mid-20s. Over the next 25 years, the condition gradually worsened to the point where the still relatively young businessman needed either to go on dialysis or undergo a kidney transplant.
In what he described as a “one-in-a-million” shot, his wife, Naama turned out to be a compatible donor. Naama added that when she learned that she was a compatible donor, she didn’t hesitate to agree to the procedure.
“Our daughters and I had been seeing Marshall suffering for years,” she said. “The decision was a no-brainer.”
Marshall described Naama as his hero. “She saved my life,” he said.
Naama was out of hospital within a couple of days and has had no adverse effects. Marshall was kept in hospital a little longer and is well on his way to full health.

Following Marshall Miller’s presentation, the audience was shown a short film about another individual who donated a kidney – but this time to a complete stranger. The donor turned out to be former Winnipegger Nathan (now Rabbi Nosson) Blumes, who is today director of development at Oholei Torah, the flagship elementary school of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement.
Onscreen, Blumes recounted how he was one of many people who were approached to get tested to determine if he might be a match for a Jewish man in need of a kidney transplant. He said that he didn’t hesitate because, as the rabbis say, if someone’s life is in danger, one is obligated to help. It is forbidden to stand by and do nothing.
While Blumes was not compatible with that individual, he was compatible with an individual by the name of Judy Kraus in California who was also in need of a kidney transplant. Blumes flew across the country, met with Kraus in a moving scene, and underwent surgery to remove one of his kidneys so that it could be transplanted in Kraus.
As with Naama Miller, Blumes has experienced no aftereffect.

Now a kidney - you can spare... other organs, not so much. This is where signing an organ donor card comes in. By signing an organ donor card, you are promising to donate your organs for transplant immediately after your passing.
While organ donation used to be questionable under Jewish law, that is no longer the case, noted Adas Yeshurun Herzlia Rabbi Yossi Benarroch, who was also on the panel . “Because organ donation was a relatively new procedure, the rabbis had to grapple with it,” he explained. “The issue was whether removing an organ – such as a heart – from a dying patient may speed up his death and how to measure the exact time of death.
“In 1987, Israel’s two chief rabbis ruled in favour of organ donation. The ruling was that death is official once all brain activity ends. The first heart transplant in Israel followed soon after the rabbis’ ruling.”
Reinforcing Rabbi Benarroch’s comments was a second short film featuring a number of Orthodox families who had donated the organs of often younger family members who had died untimely deaths.

The third member of the panel was Dr. Aviva Goldberg, one of whose many titles is Director, Canadian Society of Transplantation. She proudly reported that – if Manitoba were a separate country – our province would rank fourth in the world in total number of organ donations last year.
“We have world class doctors here who are revolutionizing the field of organ transplantation,” she said.
“We currently have over 4,500 Manitobans waiting for organ transplants,” she reported.
“Talk to your family about organ donation,” she urged. “This is one way you can leave a legacy.”
In response to a question about the dangers of organ rejection, she noted that, thanks to medical advances in recent years, rejection is not much of an issue anymore, so long as  recovering patients take their medicine and keep their appointments for regular check-ups with their doctors.

For more information about becoming an organ donor, go to signupforlife.ca or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 204-787-2323.

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