Ralph Hanan vividly recalls the time when, as an 18-year-old student learning in Israel, his friend Frederick Betesh suffered kidney failure. Practically overnight, 19-year-old Frederick changed from a perfectly normal, healthy young man to a sick, exhausted dialysis patient. It was heartbreaking for Ralph to see his friend suffer so severely, and he was determined to do whatever he could to help him. And so he began undergoing testing to see if he could donate a kidney to his friend.

Fortunately, a suitable donor was found fairly quickly, even before Ralph completed the testing process. Ralph had the delight of watching his friend experience a full recovery, and of dancing with him at his wedding. But he never forgot the heart-wrenching sight of Frederick’s illness, and he decided that at some point he would become a kidney donor in order to restore the life of a patient suffering the agony of kidney disease.

Hashem’s Plan

Fast forward to 2013. Ralph, now a married father living in Long Branch, learned that his bowling teammate, AJ Gindi, would be absent from the league for a few weeks because he is donating his kidney to someone he has never met, through the Renewal organization.  AJ’s story, as some readers will undoubtedly remember, was featured in the April issue of Community Magazine.

Ralph contacted AJ and started asking questions. He learned about Renewal, a non-profit organization dedicated to saving lives through live kidney donation.  Renewal finds matches for those in need of a transplant, and provides continuous support for the donor. This could be transportation to testing appointments, lodging and meals for anyone accompanying the donor during the transplant, child care, or even compensating for lost income during the surgery and recovery period. Since it began its operations in 2006, Renewal has facilitated 215 live kidney transplants. This year, they are averaging at least one per week.

Ralph also learned two important facts:  1) The donor does not incur any costs at all, as the recipient’s insurance pays for all medical and hospital expenses, and Renewal takes care of everything else. 2) In the unlikely event that a donor needs a new kidney at any point later in life, by law he or she is moved to the top of every waiting list.

Ralph immediately contacted Renewal and signed up for testing. “Just about two months later,” he says, “I found myself on the operating table donating my kidney and saving a man’s life.”

Ralph truly believes that his story shows how Hashem always has a plan in place, and we are here to carry it out. He relates that the day he chose for the transplant – May 7th, which happened to be the most convenient time for him – turned out to be the yahrtzeit of the recipient’s parents, who perished in the Holocaust.

“I Know Forever That I Saved a Man’s Life”

Ralph’s only regret is that now, after donating one kidney, he will never be able to donate another. “For two weeks of discomfort, I will know forever that I saved a man’s life.” He hopes his story inspires others to donate and renew lives just as he did.

Ralph Hanan and AJ Gindi are not alone in their selfless acts. There are also other heroes in our community who have performed this ultimate act of hesed and saved lives through a kidney donation. Zac Gindi was the first community member to donate his kidney through Renewal back in 2008. Tomer Nafatli donated his kidney to a young man who had before then proved impossible to match.  Renee Mizrahi received a kidney from her sister. Steven Hafif donated his kidney to his sister, Rhonda Tawil, who had a chronic illness as a teenager and whose failing kidneys put her in the hospital and on dialysis. Albert Sutton, just 19 years old, donated his kidney last summer to his father, Sam, whose kidneys suddenly failed over the course of a few months. Victoria Rishty, Sam’s niece, had been ready to donate her kidney to him, but when Albert matched and she saw the wonderful recovery her Uncle Sam had after the transplant, she recently donated her kidney to someone she did not know.

On July 3rd, Renewal will pay tribute to these heroes at a special event held in honor of our community’s kidney donors. The event will also create awareness about live kidney donation and the help Renewal offers to community members in need of a kidney transplant. Please join Renewal to celebrate and salute our heroes, and help inspire others to follow their example, so together we can continue this beautiful chain of life-saving hesed.