April is National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Month, and, for Dr. Aubrey Goldstein, it’s personal.
Almost 20 years after his first liver transplant, Goldstein needs a second liver transplant.
As past-president of the Canadian Transplant Association, Goldstein has worked tirelessly for many years on behalf of Canadians in need of transplants.
“Most people think of liver disease as alcohol-related, but that’s not my case, or usually the case,” said Goldstein, 63, who suffers from recurrent primary sclerosing cholangitis.
Leslie Kaufman, vice-president of corporate services at the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, understands the position Goldstein is in as she suffered from an autoimmune disease called PBC (primary biliary cirrhosis or primary biliary cholangitis), which is marked by slow progressive destruction of the small bile ducts of the liver.
“Dr. Goldstein’s liver is failing, but his MELD (Model for End-Stage Liver Disease) score is not high enough to qualify him for the wait list for a deceased donor,” said Kaufman. “I was in that exact situation in 2015, and was sent home from Toronto to wait for either a living donor to step forward or to become sick enough to be waitlisted. It’s a terrible predicament.”
Goldstein is feeling “tired and itchy,” and waiting. However, “it’s amazing,” he said. “Many people have messaged me and are in the process of filling out the paperwork, the first step to becoming a donor.
Goldstein said his wife, Caroline Vanneste, and sister-in-law both donated kidneys three years ago.”
In a recent Facebook post, Goldstein noted that the Toronto General Hospital told him his best chance of getting a liver was to ask friends and acquaintances to consider becoming living donors.
“This is a hard ask to do,” he wrote. “But I’m posting this message because someone out there may be able to save my life … At this time, they do more living donor surgeries than any other transplant centre in North America. But they have yet to do a second liver transplant living donor procedure. For the donor it is the same surgery as is used now for first liver transplant. But for the recipient it takes twice as long for the operation.”
For those considering being an organ donor, Goldstein advises visiting www.uhn.ca/MOT which has a description of the Toronto General Hospital’s organ donation program. There is a link on the page specific to becoming a living liver donor.
Consenting to be an organ donor after death is the only thing right now that will reduce wait times for transplants, “but courageous people willing to step forward to donate a kidney or a portion of their liver to an eligible recipient is a life-saving gesture as well,” said Kaufman. “I ask for our community to once again consider the mitzvah of giving the gift of life to Aubrey by applying to be a living donor.”
“Aubrey has been a true champion for the cause,” said Rabbi Reuven Bulka, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Machzikei Hadas, and chair of the board of the Trillium Gift of Life Network. “I am sorry to hear he is struggling.”
Organ donation is “lifesaving at its best,” said Rabbi Bulka. “There is no greater fulfilment than saving another person’s life. Lifesaving is true Godliness. If we have the opportunity to do this, we should rush to embrace it.”
Kaufman encourages community members to visit the Trillium Gift of Life website at www.beadonor.ca to register to become an organ donor and has arranged with the local chapter, Eastern Ontario Gift of Life, to have representatives present to explain organ donation and register potential organ donors at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre on Wednesday, April 26. Their table will be set up in the Fitness Centre hallway from 9:30 to 11:30 am and in the main lobby from 3 to 5 pm.