In Yehudis’s words:
It was a regular day, about six and a half years ago, when I began not feeling well. I’m not one to run to the doctor, so I continued on with my regular daily routine and assumed the problem would resolve eventually. But as the days went on, I began feeling worse. I had had a routine checkup a few months before and everything was fine, so I didn’t think much of it, but I went to the doctor. He took one look at me and said, “You don’t look so great.”
When my blood test results came back the next day, to my great shock, I was told by my doctor to immediately go to the emergency room. It was at Monmouth Medical Center that I found out that I had kidney failure and a rare kidney disease that is not found anywhere in my family. It was clear to me right from the beginning that I had kidney failure only and completely because Hashem wanted me to.
With kidney failure, you won’t live very long unless you do some form of treatment. I was put on dialysis right away. Physically, it was very difficult. But I kept going. I never gave up hope that my kidneys would come back. I would sit in dialysis and daven to Hashem that He bring back my kidney function.
When you are hooked up to the dialysis machine, you have a lot of time when you’re just sitting and receiving treatment. I would use that time to say Tehillim and read books on emunah. A situation like that gives a person a lot of opportunity to develop. It’s just you and Hashem. There’s no one else who can help.
Dialysis is not a long-term plan. Even as it is life-saving, it can only keep a person alive for a few years. While I was still hoping that my kidneys would come back, my doctor was straightforward about my options.
“You should start looking into your family for a match,” the doctor said.
He suggested my children, but to me, that was a complete non-consideration. I could not take from my children. When he then suggested my husband, I did a double take. “But we’re not blood relatives.”
“Why not check?” he answered.
I looked at my husband, who was sitting by my side. “That would be a nice anniversary gift,” I said.
My husband had been there for me the whole time as a support. He was not expecting to be dragged into a medical saga himself. Suddenly, he started getting a little nervous!
He went through a lot of testing, which was good for him, because he came out with a clean bill of health. After weeks of waiting for the call to come in, it finally did while my husband was out one day.
“Your husband is a perfect match,” they said.
I answered, “What?!”
All along, I had been davening that my kidneys would begin functioning again, but Hashem had prepared another solution for me years earlier. We had been married 37 years at that point. We always had a strong marriage, but to me, this was Heaven-sent confirmation that my husband was my true zivug: he was a completely perfect match.
The day of the transplant, our friends came in to be with us, as did our daughter, who was a kallah. She had gotten married only two weeks before, in the midst of all of this. Our son flew in the Shabbos after the surgery to be with me. Because a kidney transplant is elective surgery, you have the flexibility to choose the date and we chose Chanukah. Not only that, but we also chose Rosh Chodesh. We wanted to cover all our bases! We were able to say Hallel to Hashem on the morning of our surgery. The whole day was filled with praise, gratitude and thanks to Hashem. To us, it was fitting.
Before the surgery, the hospital has you meet with a social worker to make sure that you will be receiving proper post-surgery care at home. When she met with us, she told us, “I’m not worried about you. Your community will take good care of you.” It was a real kiddush Hashem and she was right. We were given food, rides to the hospital…everything we needed. Beyond that, I felt completely comfortable with the whole experience. I knew I was in good Hands.
When something like this happens, something that is so out of the ordinary – my own husband was a match for me – it is so obvious that Hashem orchestrated it, and you can’t help but feel taken care of. How could I be nervous? Hashem was clearly involved with the whole thing. He was directly watching over us.
My husband was brought into surgery first, and when they finished with him, it was my turn. I always pictured patients being wheeled in on a gurney, but I was able to walk into the room on my own two feet. I felt like a queen. To me, it was like the spiritual high of a kallah, walking down to her chupah. I was surrounded by friends and family. Hashem was right there beside me and I was about to begin my life anew.
My husband actually didn’t give me his kidney for free. Before he had agreed to the transplant, he offered it to me on condition: that we move to Eretz Yisroel. For years, we had talked about making the move, and it was a deep-seated dream of both of ours, but there were always more reasons not to go. For me, the main factor holding me back at that point was my elderly mother, who was ill, and who I helped care for along with my sister. But this situation brought all of our decisions under scrutiny – not to mention that I had a great deal in front of me. We shook on it, so to speak.
The doctor said that he would clear us to make the move six months after the surgery, which would be the following summer. Unbelievably, my mother passed away in February.
Today, boruch Hashem, my husband and I are both completely healthy and happier than we’ve ever been, living in Eretz Yisroel. According to my doctor, this kidney can last longer than I can. It’s amazing to think that the whole ability to perform a kidney transplant is a technology that has not been around that many years. If this had happened a few decades earlier… Well, Hashem kept me alive so that I could be in Eretz Yisroel and just keep growing closer to Him.
I’ve learned that when you go through a difficult time, not only is Hashem there for you, but He is closer than ever! When I was sick, I vividly felt Hashem there with me, by my bedside, and I grew so close to Him. We can really take advantage of the challenging times to see the kindness that Hashem does for us, and see the light that He brings into each situation. So many people helped me, cooked for me, drove me… There was endless chesed, whatever I needed. With each challenge, we can look to see that the difficult parts are inextricably intertwined with the chesed. The trial and nisayon are tied up with the loving-kindness, and it’s all one big package from Hashem.
Of course, I’m also eternally grateful to my husband. I can never really get angry at him anymore. I just look at him and think of all that he has done for me – he gave me life. I have his body part inside of me!
Last year on Chanukah, we made a seudas hoda’ah and invited people who hadn’t heard our story before. But this year, as the sixth anniversary of our transplant approached, I felt that a seudas hoda’ah was not enough. I want to tell the world. More and more, the more I think about it and the more time that goes by since the surgery, my gratitude grows. My husband pointed out recently that someone my age on dialysis, on average, can live only five years. If I hadn’t had the transplant, who knows if I would be alive today? It is a miracle.
From someone who has been to the edge and back, I say with certainty: Hashem does miracles for us. He really, still today, does miracles for us.