Baila Teitelbaum is only seven days post-surgery when I reach her by phone. Baila, 46, has donated part of her liver to a stranger. Liver donation is no joke. But from the way she conducts herself during our conversation, you would never guess what a grueling process and arduous recovery it entails.
“Hashem is incredible. He really is. Everything is yad Hashem,” she says, sounding cheerful and energetic. It was only at the end of our conversation that I learned she had come home from the hospital only a couple of days before we spoke.
Baila, who lives in Brooklyn, shrugs off the magnitude of what she has done. “It’s no big deal,” she tells me several times during our conversation. “Hashem put me in the right place at the right time. It wasn’t something I thought twice about. I’m not even sure what you’re going to write about; it’s a pretty straightforward story,” she says dismissively. These are the words of someone who truly feels that she hasn’t done something unusually generous.
And if donating a part of her liver isn’t enough, Baila shares that she is also a kidney donor—which is where her story really begins. She was a young newly engaged kallah when her mother was diagnosed with a very rare autoimmune disease called Wegener’s granulomatosis, which attacks a person’s organs. At first, her mother’s eyes and nose were affected, and then her kidneys began to fail. The doctors gave her six months to live. Baila recalls preparing for her wedding with this ominous cloud hanging over her head. Appointments and purchases were made on her own, as the family struggled to come to terms with their mother’s terrifying prognosis. Baila’s mother was on dialysis for six long, painful years. She recalls sitting with her mother at the dialysis center and witnessing people’s suffering and pain; she attributes those experiences to giving her the courage to donate her kidney at a time when it was uncommon in the frum community.