Hospital Okays Liver Transplant Operation for Israeli Infant

Chaya Cohen, the 19-month-old Israeli baby in the United States for a liver transplant, has been approved for the operation by the medical staff of the University of Minnesota Hospital in Minneapolis, according to Rabbi Chaim Zelikovitz of Long Beach, Long Island, who has been instrumental in setting up the Baby Chaya Fund to defray the cost of the operation, hospitalization and related expenses.

Zelikovitz, who spoke last night with the baby’s father in Minnesota, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the parents, Israel and Nurit Cohen of Netanya, have been provided with a beeper by the hospital to notify them when a donor liver becomes available. The operation must be performed within 24 hours of the demise of the donor.

According to Zelikovitz, the operation was approved after almost a week of testing by doctors, who indicated that the baby’s cancer had not spread beyond the liver, a crucial factor in performing a transplant. Zelikovitz said hospital doctors were impressed by the baby’s condition, given the circumstances, her father reported. Chaya was diagnosed as having liver cancer last September by Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem.

The baby’s parents told Zelikovitz that the chemotherapy which Chaya received for almost three months immobilized her and also resulted in pneumonia. A medical report from Hadassah Hospital stated that the baby’s liver cancer was resistant to chemotherapy and raised the option of a liver transplant as a possible means of curing her.

REPORT CHAYA IS ALERT AND RESPONSIVE

Zelikovitz, who housed and cared for the family before they flew to Minneapolis last week, said that Chaya was alert and responsive and “crawling all over the place, full of life. ” Her development, however, had been stunted by the chemotherapy, said Zelikovitz, and whereas a healthy baby of 19 months would be walking and talking, Chaya had not been able to attain that level of development.

The baby has been in the hospital off and on since last Wednesday. The parents, who have been alternating sleeping at the hospital, are being housed and cared for by Chabad House in St. Paul. Zelikovitz said Chabad has been providing the family with their needs, including transportation back and forth to the hospital.

Israel Cohen is a teller with Israel Dicount Bank, which provides a contingency fund for emergencies. Zelikovitz reported that the bank’s fund had provided the family with $15,000, and that the bank’s employees throughout Israel donated an additional $10,000. In addition, Israel’s father works for the City of Netanya, whose municipal employees also contributed an undisclosed sum. Zelikovitz said the wife of Netanya Mayor David Alroee heads the committee which raised the money. The entire sum donated to date in Israel is $50,000.

GENEROUS RESPONSE PROMPTED BY JTA STORY

Zelikovitz reported that a generous response, prompted by the March 26 story in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency Daily Bulletin, has brought in an additional $40,000. He said the donations, and “beautiful letters,” have been pouring in from all over the metropolitian New York area, upstate New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Minnesota.

Donations of all sizes have been receive, according to Zelikovitz, emphasizing the responses from people who have sent in what they referred to as their “last $5.” The hospital requires a guarantee of $175,000.

Zelikovitz and his wife Yetta became involved in the case because Yetta Zelikovitz’s brother, Rabbi Israel Meyer Wise of Jerusalem, who works with the sick in Israel and arranges for hospitalization outside the country when needed, arranged for Chaya’s trip to the U.S. and her admission to the hospital in Minneapolis. Rabbi Zelikovitz is affiliated with the Mesizta Yeshiva of Long Beach. He said that those who wish to help should contact the Baby Chaya Fund, 31 East Penn Street, Long Beach, New York 11561.

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