Here’s some interesting trivia: Kidney dialysis was invented in Seattle. (I was reminded of this during a visit to the new Museum of History and Industry in Seattle’s burgeoning South Lake Union neighborhood.)
Dialysis — now available pretty much everywhere — is particularly important to these two MOTs featured here.
As Rachel Vaillancourt tells me, “it’s a family gene” that has caused the deterioration of her kidneys. Her “brothers, nephews, sisters…they all went through that,” she told me. So Rachel, who lives in Seattle’s Seward Park neighborhood, wasn’t surprised when her creatinine levels became elevated about five years ago, indicating kidney failure.
For three and a half years, the native of Morocco was very careful with “diet and exercise,” but her creatinine levels continued to increase and she began dialysis late last year. About a month ago, she was approved for the transplant waiting list.
Eager to find a donor, Rachel is running an ad in this paper, which is how we learned of her plight. As with most kidney transplants, a live donor is preferred, but “anything that I can get” is fine, she says. Some of her neighborhood synagogues are also running notices in their newsletters and Rachel plans to reach out to other local synagogues for help.
Rachel has lived in Seattle for 46 years. She met her American husband in Morocco when he was serving in the military and they settled in Seattle. Although Morocco’s Jewish population is dwindling, she still has a cousin there, but most of her extended family ended up in Israel.
Andrew Weiss, MD, medical director of Virginia Mason’s kidney and pancreas transplant program, says there are no studies that show a higher likelihood of a donor-recipient match between those born Jewish. But he did note that “we use the Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA) located on chromosome 6 for histocompatibility matching between donors and recipients. Donors and recipients of like backgrounds may have closer HLA matching and subsequently a better opportunity for improved long term graft survival.”
Potential donors can call the Virginia Mason donor hotline, 1-800-354-9527, ext. 11201 for more information and testing.
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Most dialysis patients are treated at a center three times a week, but Michael Goldberg, a professor of American Studies at the University of Washington, Bothell, is one of the 10 percent to choose home dialysis.
“It’s challenging [and] takes up a lot of time…but outcomes for the body are much better,” he says of the procedure he undergoes five days a week. His wife, Elizabeth De Forest, puts on a sterile drape and mask, inserts the needle, then Michael hunkers down, sometimes with his two sons, Asher, 14, and Jonah, 12, to watch a movie or play video games while the dialysis machine does its work.
Members of Temple B’nai Torah in Bellevue, Michael and Elizabeth joined the “small, supportive community” when it was still on Mercer Island. Michael almost missed Asher’s Bar Mitzvah last year. He’d had “a very sudden decline” in health at that time, and even left the service at one point to lie down.
A native of Southern California, Michael was diagnosed with Type I diabetes when he was just 15. The auto-immune disease often leads to serious health problems, including kidney damage.
As a teen, Michael admits he did not care for himself. He started minding his health in college at UC Santa Cruz, but damage had already been done — he had a kidney and pancreas transplant in 1995. “The pancreas is fine,” he says, but the illness he suffered before Asher’s Bar Mitzvah turned out to be his transplanted kidney failing. “Scarring from anti-rejection drugs damages kidneys,” an irony of treatment, explains Michael. He started dialysis last spring.
Michael, who got his doctorate from Yale, uses an interdisciplinary approach to teaching history that includes the use of a lot of film.
“My focus has been to teach about history as a process that you learn from,” he says.
Ultimately (and appropriately), he says, “I teach complexity.”
For now, Michael stays positive waiting for the right donor to come along.
“It’s a weird process,” he reflects. “I hope to live long enough” to be a recipient. Although donation is something “you don’t even want to suggest…it would be extraordinarily helpful to my family.”
Michael is registered with the Swedish Benevolent Community Donor program at 800-99ORGAN (800-996-7426). You can also visit www.swedish.org and type “donor program” into the search bar. There’s more information on his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/
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Short Stuff: Rabbi Daniel Septimus announced he’ll be leaving his position as director of congregational learning at Temple De Hirsch Sinai to lead Hillel at the University of Texas, Austin.
The Jewish Day School has a new head of school starting this coming summer. Hamutal Gavish will move to the Seattle area from the Brandeis Hillel Day School in Marin County, Calif.