Like many mothers, Bracha Barkan waited until her children became adults before pursuing a longtime dream: to donate one of her kidneys to anyone in need. “I spent 22 years working in pediatric intensive care,” says Barkan, a nurse at Hadassah’s Ina and Jack Kay Hospice since 1998. “During those years, I cared for some very sick children, many of them suffering fatal kidney disease. There were heart-wrenching tragedies, and I grieved deeply for these poor children and their families.”The trigger came a decade later when a dear friend and colleague from the hospice needed a lung transplant. It reminded her of the crucial need for transplant organs. “I knew the time had come,” she said.A full year of testing followed, much of it psychological and psychiatric assessments. “No one would believe that I meant exactly what I said: that I wanted to be an altruistic donor,” she reported.

Eventually, Israel’s National Transplant Center was satisfied with Barkan’s mental and physical health, and within weeks a recipient for her kidney was identified. On January 8, 2006, the organ was taken out of Barkan’s body in one Hadassah operating room and eased into that of an Arab man from East Jerusalem in another.

“I didn’t want to know anything about the recipient,” says Bracha, “but Hadassah’s grapevine is very efficient. I haven’t met him or his family, although they asked to meet me. I suggested that they write me a letter. I’m against a meeting because I think it would simply make everyone feel uncomfortable. I don’t need the thanks. I didn’t give my kidney for thanks. I gave it because it was the right thing to do. To most people, donating a kidney seems like an enormous gesture, but it wasn’t like that for me. Giving it is part of the way I am, and part of giving it was that it should go wherever it was needed. It turned out it was needed by an Arab. I hear he’s doing well, and I’m delighted.”