NEW YORK, Jan. 3 (JTA) – An Israeli girl who received a lung transplant from a British man who had read of her plight in his local Jewish paper died over the weekend.
Although the transplant was completed successfully in November, Lisa Ostrovsky, a 10-year-old who suffered from cystic fibrosis, died Saturday of multiple postoperative complications, officials at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, where the procedure took place, said in a statement.
A funeral was scheduled for Wednesday at Lisa’s home, Kibbutz Ammiad, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
Lisa’s plight attracted worldwide attention this fall when her father, Ilia, launched a global e-mail campaign requesting funds for the operation, which could not be performed in Israel and was only partially covered by the family’s health insurance.
Ron Johnson, a 48-year-old British janitor offered his lung lobes after an article on Lisa’s search for a donor ran in the London Jewish News.
“Even though I am not Jewish, I am interested in the Jewish community,” he told JTA in a November interview. “When I read Lisa’s story, I knew I couldn’t help financially but I realized I could donate my lung,” he added, paraphrasing a talmudic saying that to save a life is akin to saving a world.
Notified of Lisa’s death, Johnson said he was “terribly saddened.”
“I gave her a part of my lung. Part of my heart has gone with her and will be with her forever.”
Before it ran in the London Jewish News, Ostrovsky’s campaign for his daughter also attracted the attention of Rabbi Kalman Packouz of Aish HaTorah and Rabbi Levi Cunin, director of the Chabad Center in Malibu, Calif., who broadcast Lisa’s plight on their own e-mail lists to more than 210,000 people.
Individuals in North America set up Web sites and grass-roots fund- raising campaigns on Lisa’s behalf.
Those efforts generated more than $160,000 in Israel, the United States and Canada and a pledge by one donor to cover the balance of funds not raised elsewhere.
In addition to Johnson, 20 people from around the world offered to serve as lung donors.
“We leave the United States with heavy hearts and great sadness,” Ilia Ostrovsky said shortly after his daughter’s death. “But we also leave overwhelmed by the love and support that we have received from thousands of people of all faiths across the world.”
Cystic fibrosis is a congenital childhood disorder in which the glands of the body secrete fluids that are abnormally sticky and may cause obstruction of the lungs, intestines and, more rarely, the liver.
Transplant is a last resort. Of a total of 233 pediatric lung and heart-lung transplants performed at St. Louis Children’s Hospital since 1990 – including 29 living-donor lung transplants – the overall one-year survival rate is 77 percent, according to the hospital.
The longest-surviving pediatric lung transplant patient had the surgery eight years ago.