Chabad rabbi donates part of his liver a decade after giving a kidney

The double act of kindness is considered very rare and not even permitted by most hospitals.  

By David Jablinowitz, World Israel News

Rabbi Ephraim Simon of Teaneck, New Jersey, a 50-year-old father of nine, has donated part of his liver. He traveled to the Cleveland Clinic in mid-December to carry out this act of kindness to the benefit of Adam Levitz, a 44-year-old father of three from Long Island, New York. Levitz’s liver was damaged as a result of Crohn’s disease.

Levitz was no stranger to pain and medical complications and managed to live a productive life despite the condition, which has no known cure. However, when the disease affected his liver, things got much worse. He had been working in finance until his health prevented him from continuing. “Around nine years ago, the Crohn’s caused PSC, short for ‘primary sclerosing cholangitis,’ and I was hospitalized numerous times in the past three years,” he told Chabad.org.

Levitz was placed on a donor registry in several places and had even rushed twice to Philadelphia in the hopes of receiving livers from deceased donors, but both times, his hopes were dashed. In one case, the liver wasn’t in good enough condition, and the other was too large.

In retrospect, Levitz reflects, it was all God’s hand since his doctors had advised him that he really needed a liver from a living donor.

What makes Rabbi Simon’s story special is that he had already donated a kidney in 2009. He is said to be one of only a handful of individuals to have ever donated both a kidney and a liver. Most hospitals apparently won’t even allow it, and, in fact, many hospitals turned down his offer to make the liver donation.

It was a circuitous chain that involved many people, most notably Chava Lipschutz, a woman from Brooklyn, N.Y., who had donated a kidney to a stranger and devoted her life to matching kidney donors and recipients.

Since she had matched the rabbi with the recipient of the kidney he donated, he approached her again to ask if she was aware of anyone who could make use of his liver.

“Rabbi Simon approached me in 2012 and told me that he wanted to donate a portion of his liver altruistically,” says Lipschutz. “That is unique. It is extremely rare for someone to donate a kidney and then a liver, but he was so very motivated to give this gift to someone.”

While Lipschutz is aware of two individuals who donated kidneys and then went on to donate their livers to children (who require just a small portion of an adult liver), at the time Simon was the only kidney donor she encountered who wanted to give his liver to an adult. Through an introduction made by someone else, Lipschutz became aware of Levitz and the match was made.

As others praise him for his incredible double act of kindness, the rabbi thanks his wife and children. Of his wife, he says:  “It is easier to be in pain than to have to sit there and watch someone you love suffer, so she is the one who deserves to be recognized.”