A Medical Miracle

Thursday, 24 February, 2011 - 11:46 pm

Two months ago I received an email from a colleague in Omaha regarding an acquaintance of his that was coming to New Orleans for medical treatment. Rabbi Katzman, director of Chabad of Nebraska, shared with me that Shmuel Katz had spent some time in Omaha as a candidate for a liver transplant but was sent back to Israel after several months. Shmuel was now being admitted as a potential candidate at our own Ochsner Hospital's transplant unit. Rabbi Katzman was the Katz family's Jewish contact in the US, and he was contacting us to take up that role here in New Orleans.

Many of you may not be aware that Ochsner's liver and kidney transplant team has developed an international reputation thanks to their success. It just so happens that one of the team surgeons, Dr. Ari Cohen, is a good friend, and at a recent Shabbat dinner at our home, he gave us a broad overview of Ochsner's transplant program.

Shmuel Katz arrived in the company of his son Lior. I went to meet them at Brent House, the hotel that houses out-of-town patients and their families. Within a few days they were introduced to some of the Israelis in the community. Shmuel had to go through a battery of tests to determine whether he was a candidate for a liver transplant. He had been suffering from liver disease for almost a decade and his condition was deteriorating rapidly. He was only 57 years old but his condition made him appear considerably older. Lior and Shmuel spent Shabbat in the company of the Chabad Uptown community and the Kehaty family.

Shmuel's wife Avia, and older son Moshe, were scheduled to join him the following week, by which time they hoped to have a decision regarding his candidacy. Following the tests, the medical team determined that he was indeed a candidate and they moved him near the top of the "list." On Tu B'Shvat they got the call. A liver had been found and he was the top-ranked match. When the community got word, everybody took it to heart. Prayers were said in the Synagogue. The Torah Academy children recited Psalms, asking G-d to bless the work of the doctors and give Shmuel a full recovery.

The operation lasted 6 hours, from 9 PM to 3 AM. The surgical team had given it their all. Now the vigil began to ensure that the liver would be absorbed properly. As time passed it appeared that the operation was a success. The journey to recovery had begun. Visiting Shmuel in the days following the surgery, I observed that while he was still weak, there was marked improvement in his appearance, especially his color.

After a few days in the ICU, Shmuel was moved to the transplant recovery unit. After the requisite time in the hospital, Shmuel was released back to the hotel room in Brent House, while heShmuel Katz Tefillin.jpg remains in New Orleans under observation to ensure that everything progresses well. As a community, we have enjoyed getting to know Shmuel and Avia. They have been participating in community activities and Shabbat. It is wonderful to visit with them and spend time chatting. Several people got together to present the gift of a new pair of Tefillin to Shmuel (shown praying in his Tefillin in his Brent House room).

Shmuel Katz has much to be thankful for. Whereas two months ago his future seemed very bleak, he and Avia now look forward with great joy and anticipation to the birth of their first grandchild in May, along with other Simchas in their family. They are very grateful to G-d for the miracles He has shown them and to the medical team who were the agents for making the miracle a reality.

We are blessed to have witnessed this wonderful story and we wish Shmuel and his family all the best for good health, long life and happiness. May they always merit G-d's revealed blessings in their lives.

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