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Fate of Israeli Baby Waiting for a Liver Transplant Hanges in the Balance As Doctors Have Been Unabl

May 18, 1984
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The fate of Chaya Cohen, the 21-month-old Israeli baby who arrived in the United States two months ago for a liver transplant, continues to hang in the balance as doctors at the University of Minnesota Hospital in Minneapolis have been unable to locate a suitable donor.

Rabbi Chaim Zelikovitz of Long Beach, Long Island, who was instrumental in spearheading a successful fund raising drive in the U.S. to defray the medical, hospitalization and other related expenses for the child, said today that two weeks ago a possible donor had become available.

But, he said, after doctors conducted tissue and blood tests, it was determined that the crucial matching needed for the transplant could not be met and the operation was not performed. He issued an urgent appeal for anyone who knows of a potential donor to contact the donor program at the University of Minnesota at 612-373-8484.


In an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Zelikovitz noted the growing concern of the child’s parents, Israel and Nurit Cohen of Netanya, who are being housed and cared for by Chabad House in St. Paul. Chabad has been providing them with their needs, including transportation back and forth to the hospital.

Chaya arrived in March after several months at Hadassah Hopital where attempts were made to treat her liver cancer with chemotherapy. But 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. Liver transplants are not done in Israel.

Last month, the medical staff of the hospital in Minneapolis gave formal approval for the operation. Zelikovitz said the parents 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.

Israel and Nurit Cohen remain “very concerned,” Zelikovitz said. “Every day that goes by makes them more concerned. They know that each day brings her disease closer to the danger point.” He said Chaya is given tests to see that the condition has not deteriorated to a point where the operation would be cancelled.


The prospects of abtaining a proper donor are compounded by several factors, the obvious being her age, Zelikovitz said. Many donors are victims of automobile accidents in which children do not make up a large percentage of fatalities. Furthermore, Zelilovitz explained that if a choice has to be made between Chaya and an American in need of a donor, the organ would go to the American.

Zelikovitz, while pointing out theimmense difficulties in obtaining a donor, said the fund-raising drive has been a success. The hospital requires a guarantee of $175,000 for the operation. He said the Baby Chaya Fund has raised nearly all of the required funds, less several thousand dollars.

Donations to the fund have come in from all over the country, primarily from the Greater metropolitan New York area, Connecticut and New Jersey. Also, donations, as little as $5, have arrived from Massachusetts, California, Texas and elsewhere, including Canada.

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.

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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