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by Joey Hoffman

On Feb. 8, 2003, I gave birth to my grandmother. Daisy, my daughter, is a clone of Mama Paula, my stoic, dazzling, cancer-thriving love who, sadly, did not meet her great granddaughter. Yet the two are inextricably linked by one particular characteristic: Their phoenix-like ability to rise under critical circumstances.

In 2006, we up-rooted from New York and moved to Omaha where, on July 20, Daisy endured an 8-hour transplant surgery in which she received a life-saving small bowel, a liver and a pancreas at The Nebraska Medical Center. She was 3-1/2. Now 10, she says, “I really would have liked to move to Paris because I could speak French, eat baguettes, ride on one of those motorcycle thingies and meet cute French boys.”

Baguettes and boys, thank God, are Daisy’s biggest concerns these days (and dancing and Rainbow Loom and Instagram and…), but it wasn’t always so. We chose the Nebraska Medical Center over a Paris transplant center because, after extensive research, it proved to be the best in the country, perhaps the world, for her needs. Daisy received her organs merely six weeks after being listed for transplant. 18 people die every day waiting for an organ.

Daisy James web

Daisy James

Since Daisy’s surgery, the number of candidates on the national transplant list awaiting an organ (or multiple organs) has grown exponentially. Today, there are 120,324 people on the list – that’s more than Madison Square Garden’s seating capacity. Many won’t make it to transplant. Why? A lack of donors. The good news: According to UNOS, the United Network of Organ Sharing, a private, non-profit organization that manages the nation’s organ transplant system, “In response to the shortage of organs for transplantation, relatives, loved ones, friends and even individuals with no prior relationship are serving as living donors for the growing number of people on the national organ transplant waiting list.” Simply put, one may donate an organ – a kidney, for instance – while he or she is alive.

Nov. 15-17 is National Donor Sabbath, an organ donation initiative launched in 1997 by the United States Department of Health and Human Services with the intention of consolidating individual efforts of various faith communities into one national campaign. Every year, that weekend reinforces the concept of Pikuach Nefesh, which describes the principle in Jewish Law that we have an obligation to save a human life in jeopardy.

Says Temple Israel’s Rabbi Azriel: “Preserving life in Judaism has been always at the top of the Mitzvah list. The “Ubacharta Bchaim” verse in Torah speaks of the importance in choosing life. Every attempt to assist the one whose life is threatened by serious health challenges must be practiced.”

Indeed, in each moment, Daisy’s donor family honors Pikuach Nefesh in the most profound, humbling way. To them, to every donor – past, present and future – to every soul awaiting their gift of life and to Mama Paula, I dedicate the following ancient Jewish healing prayer which I have gently recited to my sweet girl every night since she was 11-months-old:

El Na Refa Na La

El na refa na la, please God heal her

El na refa na li, please God heal me

El na refa na lo, please God heal him

We are loved by an un-ending love

We are embraced by arms that find us, even when we are hidden from ourselves

We are touched by fingers that soothe us, even when we’re too proud for soothing

We are counseled by voices that guide us, even when we’re too embittered to hear

We are loved by an un-ending love

We are supported by hands that uplift us, even in the midst of a fall

We are urged on by eyes that meet us, even when we’re too weak for meeting

We are loved by an un-ending love

Embraced, touched, soothed and counseled

Ours are the arms, the fingers, the voices

Ours are the hands, the eyes and the smiles

We are loved by an un-ending love

            To register as an organ donor, please visit http://www. or for more information call 402.559.3788.