Rabbi Deborah Zuker set to donate kidney to David Uzan

Rabbi Deborah Zuker set to donate kidney to David Uzan

By Matthew Horwood

After months of searching for a suitable living organ donor, David Uzan will receive a kidney from Rabbi Deborah Zuker. As reported in the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin (“David Uzan searches for a living kidney donor,” October 15, 2018), Uzan, a married father of four young children, has IgA nephropathy, also known as Berger’s disease. IgA nephropathy occurs when an antibody (immunoglobulin A) gets lodged in the kidneys, causing inflammation that hampers the kidney’s ability to filter wastes from the bloodstream.

Without a kidney transplant, Uzan faced a lifetime of dialysis treatments lasting several hours several times per week. Uzan told the Bulletin last fall that while dialysis would keep his body in balance, it “results in a significantly reduced quality of life and life span. So a new kidney is the highly preferred option."Rabbi Zuker, the associate rabbi at Kehillat Beth Israel, was found to be a direct kidney donor match for Uzan. Rabbi Zuker said she has been friends with David’s wife, Ru, for about a year, so she was aware the family was getting ready to “ask a wider circle of people” about donating a kidney to him.Rabbi Zuker and Ru met through their children, who have special needs. The pair connected through their desire “for them to be accepted and included in our Jewish community,” said Rabbi Zuker.

Rabbi Zuker, Ru and Madelaine Werier founded JOIN – the Jewish Ottawa Inclusion Network. JOIN is described on its Facebook page as “a grassroots organization promoting and facilitating the inclusion of children of all abilities in the Ottawa Jewish Community.”“It’s been a real blessing, in more than one way, to get to meet these people because we are improving the lives of all our children and our whole community, and I’m now improving David’s life,” Rabbi Zuker said.

As Rabbi Zuker explained, the process of becoming a kidney donor involves “a lot of blood work and lab tests, and when you get past a certain point there are a lot of different scans and clinic visits.”Rabbi Zuker said the tests began at the beginning of September, before Rosh Hashanah. She said the transplant procedure has been scheduled to take place on February 21.Rabbi Zuker says she is not feeling at all nervous about the surgery.

“Ever since I knew that David needed a kidney, I knew it would be me,” she said. “I just had a sense that this would happen and it feels like it’s happening according to someone’s plan.”Rabbi Zuker says she feels it is a “tremendous blessing” to be a part of something so miraculous.“The fact that I can do this for another person because of the science feels pretty amazing,” she said.Uzan says that when he was told that Rabbi Zuker was a suitable kidney donor, he was in disbelief.

“I was very touched that she would be so enthusiastic about doing something that would cause her so much discomfort,” he said. “I am maybe feeling a little bit nervous because it’s a big procedure to go through, but more than anything I feel gratitude.”Uzan says he feels so appreciative of the gift he will receive from Rabbi Zuker, and adds how appreciative he is to “lots of other people who have stepped up in other ways to help.”Meal Train sites have been set up so that community members can volunteer to assist the Uzan and Zuker families with such tasks as meal preparation, child care, rides, etc. in a coordinated way. Visit www.mealtrain.com/trains/5yd37z for the Uzan family site and www.mealtrain.com/trains/wyr027 for the Zuker family site.