Elissa Wald had long wanted to make a considerable difference in the world, but for many years, the Oregon writer and mother of two was unsure of how she could.
She had read about every day people taking on what she felt were insurmountable tasks she imagined were beyond rewarding but, for her, just not doable.
“Donating all their discretionary funds [to charity] … adopting 20 special needs kids … outsize things that I thought ‘I could never do that,’” she told InsideEdition.com.
Then she came to the part of the book that looked at a living kidney donor and a light bulb went off. That, she thought, was something she could consider.
The timing of her urge would prove to appear kismet, as it wasn’t long until she was listening to her favorite rabbi discuss how positive an experience it was to be a living organ donor.
“It was no longer something outlandish someone in an article had done,” Wald said. “I saw this talk at the right time. It became real to me.”
As her dream took shape, Wald found she in somewhat of a sweet spot to take on the responsibility of donating a kidney.
“I was turning 50, and you’d think, ‘Oh, maybe a 20-year-old kidney would be even better,’ but that’s not true, because then the remaining one has to hold down the fort for another 60 years,” she said. “I’m kind of not too old, not too young, not having any more children.”
She explained that women considering getting pregnant should be aware of the implications of living with one kidney, as pregnancy can sometimes tax a person’s kidneys.
“That’s what happened with our recipient,” she said.
As Wald began considering the real possibility of parting with one of her kidneys, a young mother across the country was in the middle of her fight to live.
Upper West Side mom Ewa Moskovitch was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease at 20 and the inherited condition only worsened when she had her daughter Sophia, now 3.
“We realized the key function of my kidneys were getting worse and worse,” Moskovitch, now 40, told the New York Post.
She was placed on the transplant list but would wait two years before finding Ward, whose own transplant journey was not without its own hiccups.
“I was matched with quite a few people,” she told InsideEdition.com.
But before Wald and each prospective recipient — five in total — could head into surgery, another match would pop up.
“People had started to call me a kidney good luck charm,” she laughed. “Even if someone had been on dialysis for five years, the minute I started the paperwork, that was it. I was delighted, but I was starting to wonder if it would ever work out.”
Wald then found Chaya Lipschutz, who has worked as a kidney matchmaker after donating one of her own to a stranger in 2005, and eventually, Lipschutz found Moskovitch. And tests showed they were enough of a match that a transplant could work.
“I was just ecstatic,” Wald said. “The original dream was to give it to a young mother. When my two kids were tiny, I just lived in terror that if something happened to me, they would be without a mom. For me, the dream was to take another mother out of that terrible place.”
Wald traveled to New York, where she had lived for 18 years before moving to Portland in 2006, and last Thursday, she and Moskovitch underwent a successful transplant operation.
“I was as calm as I’ve ever been facing a medical ordeal I was afraid of,” Wald said of her mindset ahead of the procedure. “This is bigger than yourself. [I thought,] ‘I’m doing a good thing’ and I just surrendered to it.”
Though the pair met for the first time before their surgeries, it was only several days later that they again came together.
“They wanted to introduce their baby to me and their baby calls me Aunt Elissa,” she said. “We’re all crying, the emotion is through the roof; you’re automatically as close as family. We’re going to be in each other’s lives. We love each other. I want to watch that child grow up.”
Beyond the obvious physical changes they have experienced since their surgeries, both women have felt profoundly touched by the experience of organ donation.
“I feel so gifted,” Wald said. “I have never been happier in my life. I want to be an advocate, I want to be a resource for this. It’s such a personal decision … there’s a lot of ways to be a force for good in this world. [But] I’d like this to be on the radar.”