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Kidney Donor Riding High

Shira Yehudit Djalilmand

Stephen Colman: “Anyone considering donating a kidney should know — it’s a tremendous mitzvah.”

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

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“You lose a few days of your life — but you’ve saved a life,” says Stephen Colman

In recent years, the mitzvah of donating a kidney to save a life has become more widespread, thanks largely to Matnat Chaim, the nonprofit organization founded by Rabbi Yehoshua Heber. Until now, most of those donations have taken place inIsrael, Matnat Chaim’s base. But recently, the organization celebrated the success of its first kidney donation inEngland.

Stephen Colman, 64, aLondonmortgage broker, first decided to donate a kidney five years ago when he saw an advertisement seeking a kidney for a local girl. Mr. Colman went for tests but was not compatible. A few years later he met Rabbi Heber at a reception for Matnat Chaim, where he explained his continued interest in donating. Later, he flew toIsraelfor more tests.

Then Mr. Colman got a call from Matnat Chaim. Philip Walters, a member of the Jewish community of Southend, desperately needed a kidney. English law only permits kidneys to be donated to a person one knows, in order to avoid exploitation. But at theRoyalFreeHospitalin Hampstead, where Mr. Colman went for testing, Matnat Chaim convinced the authorities that the donation was purely altruistic, thus smoothing the path for future donations in theUK.

The surgery to remove a kidney for donation is relatively minor, lasting about three hours. In most cases, donors can go home after just a few days in the hospital. In Mr. Colman’s case, not only was he back to almost a regular routine within a few days, but just five and a half weeks after the operation he participated in a 60-mile charity bike ride. The ride, a hilly route fromLondonto Brighton, was in aid ofNorwood, an organization providing support for children and adults with special needs.

“I’ve done it every year for 16 years and I didn’t want to miss it this year,” said Mr. Colman. “It was a bit tougher than usual because I hadn’t been able to do any training, but the doctor who did my check-up the next day was very happy.”  

Stephen Colman wins the race for chesed

Rabbi Heber founded Matnat Chaim in 2009 after his young chavrusa, whom he had learned with during dialysis, died for lack of a kidney. Today, the organization has arranged over 300 transplants. In recent years, numerous rabbanim have endorsed kidney donation, declaring it a mitzvah. As for health concerns, Rabbi Heber explains that medically, two working kidneys give humans 400% of the function they need. “So with one kidney, you can live ad meah v’esrim totally healthily.”

Stephen Colman is happy to encourage others considering donating a kidney. “Anyone considering donating a kidney should know — it’s a tremendous mitzvah. You lose a few days of your life — but you’ve saved a life. There’s no feeling like that.”


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