Hadassah’s 2019 Hanukkah Miracles: New Sphere of Joy for Kidney Donor
“I’m so happy it feels like my wedding day,” Esti Lerer, the petite, hazel-eyed Hassidic youth worker, and mother of three said last year when she donated one of her kidneys to Tomer Tarfa Darja, age 23.
Since then, Tomer has become part of Esti’s large extended family. He spends Sabbaths with them, and the Lerers include him on family trips. Tomer and Esti are both feeling fine. He’s back to his studies and she’s busy with work and her children.
“Tomer always wants to thank me, but I need to thank him,” Esti says. “All I gave him was a seven-ounce kidney, and he gave me a whole new sphere of joy and meaning. It’s hard to express the elation and ebullience of knowing that I am so fortunate to be able to save a life.”
At 28, Lerer was among Israel’s youngest altruistic kidney donors. “Along the way, I was repeatedly told I was nuts, that I should come back at age 40,” she recalled. “The worst was when a nephrologist in Tel Aviv tore up my file. But at Hadassah Hospital, I was treated with professionalism and understanding.”
When Esti was a teen, her best friend’s father died of kidney disease. Esti had made up her mind then to donate her kidney when she grew up. It was among the important facts about herself that she shared with her husband-to-be on their first date.
Tomer is the youngest of seven children. He immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia with his widowed mother when he was a toddler. Hoping to serve in an elite unit of the Israel Defense Forces, he was taking a year in a pre-army yeshiva for extra training when he fell sick. What was first misdiagnosed as gastroenteritis turned out to be kidney disease.
The surgeon for both Esti and Tomer was Dr. Abed Khalailah. “It was a perfect match,” says Dr. Khailailah. Esti agrees. “A match made in heaven.”
Happily, the number of transplants at the Hadassah Medical Center is growing all the time, thanks to altruistic donors like Esti.