Marci Rapp, a Canadian immigrant to Israel, first got inspired by the idea of kidney donation when she read an article by Lori Palatnik on Aish.com. Lori told her own story about the ‘Kidney Mitzvah Organization’ which matches donors and recipients. Marci then found out that Leah Golomb, her Torah teacher, had flown to South Africa to undergo a kidney transplant that cost her $100,000. “Leah’s story really touched my heart and I started thinking that the issue of altruistic kidney donations must be promoted. Soon after, I began considering the idea very seriously,” Marci explained.
Then she received an e-mail from a woman named Chaya Lipschutz, who asked her to consider donating a kidney to a 42-year-old mother of nine.
“When I first read the e-mail I didn’t think I would do something about it,” Marci recalled. “I knew that bureaucratically this was a complex process. Yet even so, I decided to respond because of the tremendous mitzvah involved.”
She then had to undergo a compatibility test, which matched her with the woman’s sister, a 48-year-old mother of six named Shulamit. “This was a critical situation as the woman was in immediate danger and needed transplant surgery immediately.”
“Shulamit suffered from a rare disorder that caused her kidneys to fail when she was only in her forties. As a result of her kidney failure, Shulamit had breathing problems and needed to receive four hours of dialysis three times a week. The long treatments took Shulamit away from her children for many hours a week and left her feeling weak and exhausted.”
After Marci underwent extensive medical testing, her family members realized her intentions were serious about the kidney donation. “Some of my children were very supportive of my idea, and others expressed concern about the possible damage to my health. In addition to worrying about my health, my husband worried about the future of our business, and hoped that the surgery would take place when things were calmer. I’m glad he didn’t veto my decision. My doctor seemed pleased with my decision and determined that there was no reason for me not to donate.”
What Marci found most challenging were the language barrier and bureaucracy problems which complicated and delayed the process. Also, the anxiety of not knowing when the surgery was finally going to occur.
She rearranged her business priorities as creator and CEO of MarSea Modest Swimwear with her husband/business partner, Harold, in order to remain on standby as a kidney donor. Her business, which she created due to the need for modest, comfortable swimwear for women, was just taking off and becoming successful. Marci and her husband hoped that the surgery would take place during April or May so that the business would not suffer during the busy summer season. “We were hoping that it would work out that way, but the surgery was stalling…still I trusted in Hashem to provide income during my recovery.”
Her intended recipient had been rescheduled to receive that vitally necessary organ several times. Recurring illness delayed the surgery throughout May and June 2011. Finally on June 14th the life-saving surgery took place at Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tikva.
When asked how she felt when she entered the hospital to donate her kidney, Marci explained that she herself wondered how she should be feeling. “I wasn’t sick but I wasn’t joyful as I would be in going to give birth. But then the mother of my recipient told me that in a sense I was giving birth to her daughter – I was giving her a new life!”
Marci spent four days in the hospital and another two weeks recuperating. “The truth is that I was sore the first week, similar to having a C-section,” she explained. “Still the pain was bearable and not worth mentioning in the larger scheme of things. All the positive aspects of the experience more than made up for it. I’ve received wonderful comments and encountered great kindness. Meeting the recipient and her family has changed my life and seeing her becoming healthy and vital without dialysis is totally gratifying. To feel a part of Hashem’s plan in prolonging this woman’s life is truly awesome. Shulamit and I have an amazing relationship and are now very close.
Although I had the surgery at the worst time possible for our business, it seems to have worked in reverse, as people have dafka come to us because of the donation,” she points out. “Many hashgacha pratit (divine providence) stories have come out of this and I’ve met some fascinating people. My family and I shared a seudat hoda’a, a meal of thanksgiving, with my recipient in her home in the Shomron. That outing included a tour of Shilo with one of her relatives, Yossi, a tour guide. We spent a Shabbat in Maaleh Levona where Yossi owns a guest house he built into the hills with a vineyard below, a retreat where couples can heal or reconnect. I’d never heard of Maaleh Levona before and never would have met these wonderful people if I hadn’t donated my kidney. We even connected to supermarket magnate Rami Levy. The daughter of my kidney recipient worked for him. Rami now sells MarSea Modest Swimwear and gym clothes in his Yafiz clothing store.”
Now deeply committed to the concept of altruistic kidney donation, Marci wants to inform others. In fact, just one week after her surgery, she left her home in Jerusalem to speak to an audience of the Americans and Canadians in Israel (AACI) branch in Netanya. Among the comments she shared is that, “We definitely need to make kidney donation less complicated for English-speakers in Israel. Some don’t speak Hebrew easily. Others don’t know how to be involved in the kidney donation process.”
When asked about living with only one kidney, Marci explained that she was not worried. “All the studies have proven unequivocally that the quality of life of a donor is not harmed. I believe that with Hashem’s help, I will be able to live a full and happy life with one kidney. I feel I was guided to do this and know it was the right thing to do.”
Thousands of people around the world are currently waiting for a kidney transplant but many unfortunately will die while waiting. Just as she herself was inspired to give, Marci now encourages others to consider the opportunity of saving a life.
Marci, emigrated from Canada with her family in 2008.
Would you encourage other people to donate kidneys? YES!!
“I was fortunate to donate my kidney to a woman who, like me, is religious and Canadian. We have an amazing relationship and are now very close. For me it was important that I speak the same language as my recipient..
I think donating a kidney to save a life is like making Aliya, It si simply the right thing to do.
And I think every woman knows if and when it’s the right time for her to take on such mitzvot.”
Marci was interviewed on Radio Free Nachlaot on May 5, 2011.