Baltimore, MD - July 5, 2020 - Four years ago, Israeli-born Anat Klotzman moved with her husband, Randy, and their youngest of three daughters to Delray Beach, Florida, after living in Baltimore for 30 years. Perhaps only now, the real reason behind their move is evident. Last July, Anat was minding her own business at the outdoor pool in her development when she couldn’t help but overhear a distraught couple speaking about their son, whose kidney transplant donor disappointingly backed out.
Fast forward…about a year ago to the day of that serendipitous encounter, Anat is recuperating in Baltimore, with the help of her daughter, Barak, from selflessly donating her kidney to this couple’s son - Larry Motto, of New Jersey - a complete stranger, with whom she has since created a bond for life – literally!
Anat shares her amazing story of Divine Providence in her own words….
The Right Time, The Right Place
I was acquainted with the couple sitting by the pool, but I barely knew them – I didn’t know anything about their personal family life. The man was talking about his son, Larry, who needed a kidney and how his potential donor backed out, and how upset his son was. Unlike me, the people he was speaking to at the pool seemed to know their story.
I can’t actually explain what possessed me, but I lifted my hand up – like when you lift it up in a classroom – and I said, ‘I’ll volunteer!’ People turned around and looked at me as if to say, ‘What did you say?’ I said, ‘I’m 52. As far as I know I am healthy and I don’t take any medication. I told them my blood type, which seemingly was a match for his blood type. They asked, ‘Are you sure?’ Nobody believed me.
I felt their need, I felt their pain, so I volunteered. I didn’t know anything about the circumstances of why their son needed a kidney and I didn’t ask questions. I didn’t know anything about him, not even his age. It wasn’t even a matter if I felt he deserved it or didn’t deserve it.
I walked home from the pool and told my husband that I was going to donate a kidney. Needless to say, he wasn’t pleased and was in shock. My daughter was freaking out, asking, ‘What are you doing?’ I calmed them down, saying, ‘This doesn’t mean I am going to be able to do it; I just volunteered. I would like to do it if I can. It’s my body.’
I kind of made up my mind, not knowing where it was going to take me. My husband, seeing how determined I was, really grew to understand and accept my decision. He never told me not to do it or that he didn’t want me to do it. He might have said something if I asked, but I never really asked. After the initial shock, my husband and daughters were extremely supportive.
I think Larry’s parents were in shock, too - no one really believed that I meant it. When I would see them outside, I reassured them that I really wanted to do it and asked them for the transplant center information. I pursued them until they gave me a number to call at the Nicoletti Kidney Transplant Center which is affiliated with the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia; everything had to be arranged through this center. I called the number and the ball started rolling; the center sent me a bunch of paperwork to fill out. Later on, it assigned a social worker to me, who interviewed me for about three hours to assess my state of mind and my reasons for volunteering – to make sure it was legit.
Anat Finally Meets Her (Kidney) Match
Up until December, when Larry came to visit his parents in Florida and they invited me to meet him, I really didn’t know anything about him. Then, I asked him his age and why he needed a kidney. This is what I found out: He is 45 years old, has twin 9-year-old girls and a 4-year-old son, and was in a car accident about four years ago. His kidneys were damaged during open-heart surgery; they slowly went into failure a couple of weeks post-surgery. For the last two or three years, he has been on dialysis every evening for eight hours. I also asked him what number potential donor I was for him? He said I was number eleven. It turns out that he had been looking for a kidney for the last four years. His heart surgery was seven years ago; it took a few years for the tissue to get bad.
In September, I started going for some tests – not a regular physical and tests; they examine potential donors under a microscope! I had to first get some bloodwork to determine that my kidney was a match, which it was – that was the first bit of great news! I found out that the more tests you take, the more tests you have to take. It doesn’t end – there was a lot of required bloodwork, a colonoscopy, an EKG, stress tests, ultrasounds, nuclear medicine testing of my kidneys, and urine collections. The testing lasted from September until sometimes in February, when I was finally done. I had to drive three hours away, to Gainesville, to get the nuclear medicine test, since for some reason, it was not available locally.
When I went to my first pre-op, in the beginning of March, I met my whole surgical team – my surgeon, nephrologist, anesthesiologist, and the coordinator. I am the kind of person that once I’ve decided to doing something, there is nothing that will make me change my mind. The only way I would have not done this is if I was not able to. Even though my social worker told me that I would be able to back out of it up until the day of the pre-op, two weeks before - and they’d find a reason to back me up on my decision - I said, ‘I am never going to do that unless I can’t. I’m not that kind of person; once I make a commitment, I stick with it.’
Getting the prescription from Philly and doing the testing in Florida took more time. Me being me, after every test I took I would always call, email or text my coordinator to find out the results. I was so eager, I just wanted to get good results. I had some days of anxiety and some sleepless nights when I wasn’t sure what the test results were going to be.
When I finally met my coordinator at my first pre-op - which was really nice after talking to her for six months on the phone - I said to her, ‘I must be your worst nightmare; I must be your most annoying patient!’ She actually said, ‘On the contrary! We’ve never met someone like you; you are so enthusiastic in wanting to do it. If anything, you were bugging us so much in a good way, because you were just trying to make sure that you could do it.”
Corona Pushes Off Surgery
After I passed all the tests, surgery was planned for March 17. The beginning of March, two weeks before, I went to Philly for the pre-op. I passed all the tests and returned home to Florida, only to find out that Corona shut down everything. We had to wait and wait until surgery opened up – it was rescheduled for Tuesday, June 23. The major difference this time, was because of the virus, they didn’t want me to fly back and forth. So, I flew north two weeks before to do my pre-op and then came to stay with our close friends, Mark and Karen Schwartzman, in Baltimore. My doctors really wanted me to stay in Philly after doing the pre-op, but since I do not know anyone there, I asked if I could stay in Baltimore, and they let me.
I had to return to Philly two days before surgery to do a second Covid test, 48 hours before surgery- the first one was at the pre-op two weeks before - since any small, single virus can change your DNA so you are not a match, anymore. Can you imagine my fear, when I was coming to this hopefully last pre-op, thinking that there was a chance I wasn’t going to be a match anymore?
Thank G-d, everything worked out and two days after the surgery I returned to Baltimore to recuperate. After my post-op visit in Philly on July 6, I will know when I will be allowed to fly home. I came on a one-way ticket because we didn’t know what was going to happen and how long I would be here, especially in light of Corona.
It is a week after the surgery now, and it is still mind-blowing to me that I actually did it! It’s one thing to say I want to do it and another thing to get to a point where I was able to do it. I never thought in my life about donating a living organ, it was just that moment, that day, that time that I heard them speaking and said I would do it. I wasn’t even thinking. I didn’t say let me go home and sleep on it. I don’t know what possessed me, but I believe that G-d was with me and that I was there at the right time.
I always say “Modeh Ani” in the morning, and ever since I volunteered, I added this prayer: ‘Please, G-d, let me do this”. I said that every single day. Once I found out that I passed all the tests and was able to be a donor, I said, ‘Thank you, G-d, for letting me do it; please make it happen, and please make sure that everything is okay.’ I was very determined.
When the surgery was over and I was able to speak to the surgeon, he told me not only that the surgery was successful, thank G-d, but that my kidney is like that of a 22-year-old! Larry got a very healthy kidney.
The day after surgery when I went to visit Larry, his wife was with him and it was very emotional for all three of us – we were all crying. It definitely created a bond between us. I have also gotten much closer to Larry’s parents, who are just as emotional about how things turned out and tell me I am like their child. It was a roller coaster, but if you would see me now, I am smiling – I am just so happy that I got to do this.
Although I never spoke to Larry -- except when I saw him in December, at the two pre-ops, and after the surgery -- before I left the hospital, a day before he did, I told him to stay in touch with me once in a while to keep me posted on his progress.
Now, we keep in touch. He told me from day one he is feeling better and is off of his blood pressure medication. There is a drastic change and I am just thankful that G-d helped me take part in it. I felt it was bashert that I was at the pool that day at the right time. I don’t know if I would have known about his need for a kidney, otherwise. Even now, I get teary-eyed when I talk about it; it’s emotional. I wanted to help them so badly and G-d made it happen. It’s like a miracle that I was able to do this and that everything worked out!
Before virtually parting, Anat reveals to me, “It is an amazing feeling to know that I actually saved someone. I am blessed that I was able to do this…I am not the kind of person who likes to talk too much about myself; I don’t like to be in the spotlight, but I am hoping that my story will inspire others.”
What is Larry’s take on this miracle? He shares with me, “This journey has had a lot of ups and downs, but yet I feel lucky to have found a living donor. Anat is an inspiration and my super hero, and I can’t thank her enough!”