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Ottawa woman needs urgent liver transplant

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Leslie Kaufman
Leslie Kaufman

An urgent plea is being made to find a living liver donor to save the life of a member of the Ottawa Jewish community.

Leslie Kaufman, vice-president of corporate services at the Jewish Federation of Ottawa (JFO), is fighting for her life in the Toronto General Hospital’s transplant unit.

Her husband, Sam Greenspon, said Kaufman, 56, had been ill for several years, but with a variety of seemingly unrelated symptoms which, in retrospect, seem to have been the cause of her liver failure. Last winter, during a bout of what she thought was bronchitis, Kaufman was prescribed antibiotics. She became jaundiced and was diagnosed in February with primary biliary cirrhosis, a disease in which the bile ducts in the liver are slowly destroyed. Greenspon said that this is an autoimmune disease and Kaufman was probably born with it.

After being in and out of hospital during the summer, Kaufman returned to the hospital this fall with dehydration. She was immediately flown to the Toronto General where she remains, waiting desperately for a liver donation.

Rabbi Reuven Bulka, rabbi emeritus of Ottawa’s Congregation Machzikei Hadas, has for many years been involved with educating and encouraging the community at large, and the Jewish community in particular, to become organ donors. He is the chair of Trillium Gift of Life Network, the provincial agency responsible for organ and tissue donation and transplantation, which also has a program for reimbursing expenses of living organ donors.

Rabbi Bulka partnered with the Ottawa federation to send out an email appeal for a live liver donor.

“Organ donation is all about saving lives. Saving lives is the pre-eminent kindness we can do for others… It enhances lives and uplifts the donor and the donor’s family. It is magical,” he said. “Leslie’s situation is heart-wrenching, and we fervently hope a donor will come forward.”

One potential donor is Kaufman’s colleague Bram Bregman, vice-president of community building at the JFO. “With 100 per cent support by my amazing wife, I am being tested to donate a portion of my liver to my dear colleague, Leslie,” Bregman said.

“Although I feel nervous, especially with 15-month-old twins at home, I felt it was the right thing to do. I have been raised in a community that taught me to think of others, to be a giver, and that life matters more than anything else, and this is what I want to pass on to my children.”

Andrea Freedman, president and CEO of the JFO, is a colleague and a friend of Kaufman’s. “This is deeply personal and professional for me. Leslie is a fantastic colleague and Jewish communal professional, selflessly serving our community. And she is also a doting grandmother who came to the office every Monday morning with a new story about her grandson. It keeps me up late at night knowing that someone out there has the power to save Leslie’s life, and it is our responsibility to keep looking until we succeed in finding a match,” she said.

Many people are unaware that a donor’s liver will completely regenerate itself within a couple of months and that a potential donor does not have to be a blood relative but must have a compatible blood type.

If you are willing to begin the process of being tested for suitability and to do the greatest mitzvah of helping to save a life, please contact the Toronto General Hospital’s Living Donor Liver Office co-ordinator at 416-340-4800, ext. 4711.