‘Crazy, emotional closing of circle’: Kidney donor, recipient run Tel Aviv marathon together

A year after the life-altering surgery, Yael Keller ran a 10K race with Guy Damari in Tel Aviv.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Just one year after Yael Keller donated a kidney to Guy Damari, they ran a 10K marathon together in a feat of friendship and endurance that for one of them, at least, had been unthinkable for the last several years, Israel Hayom reported.

Damari, 29, was diagnosed with a kidney disease four years earlier, and by 2022 his condition had deteriorated to the point that he urgently needed a transplant.

“This is where my amazing angel Yael Keller came into the picture,” he said. “Yael bravely decided to donate a kidney to someone she didn’t know and help him get a new life.”

Keller said she decided to become a donor after her brother had altruistically given one of his kidneys to a stranger. It takes quite some fortitude to go through the lengthy medical process, and Yael’s resolve was tested immediately when it was discovered that she was anemic. The mother of five from Tekoa had to be treated for this condition for a year before she could continue with all the necessary tests, but she was determined to go through with it.

Although the rules are quite strict in that donors are not allowed to communicate with the recipients before the operation, Keller wanted to make a connection with Damari. She sent him a song through the Hadassah Medical Center’s transplant coordinator before the surgery.

Read  Human rights group petitions court against Tel Aviv's restrictions on public Jewish prayer

“Yael sent me and my family the Hatikva 6 song, ‘What Will Be, Will Be,’ and that song has accompanied us, with great emotion, ever since,” Damari said.

“All that I knew about him was that he was a young man with a very supportive family,” Keller said. “His reaction [to the song] were amazing, and I understood that this was a sensitive and good man.”

The surgery was a success, and when they finally met afterwards, they found they had a lot more in common than a kidney.

“We’re both lighthearted, love to laugh and are a bit cynical,” said Keller, who is a teacher by day and an ambulance driver by night.

“We have a fantastic relationship, we’re great friends,” Damari agreed, adding that he’s gone on several day trips with her family over the year.

It was Damari’s idea to take on a marathon together.

“I met up with Yael and her terrific husband several months ago and we discovered that we both used to run, before the surgery. So I suggested a kind of mutual challenge, that we should run a route together,” he said with a smile.

They trained together for a few months and then entered the 10K race at the Tel Aviv Playtika Marathon.

“It was a crazy and emotional closing of the circle,” Damari said. “I always feel that I’ve lucked out. Yael is proof that there are miracles, light, goodness, and unconditional love in the world. She is my personal miracle, a person who spreads endless giving.

Read  'Left-wing riots against Jews': Chaos as anti-reform protesters disrupt Yom Kippur services

“The marathon was terrific, and throughout the entire route, Yael spurred us on with all her might, motivating us forward.”