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The gift of life: Mom donates a kidney to her daughter

A mother’s love knows no bounds, as many parents will go to great lengths to do anything and everything for their children. Iris Rothstein was one such parent whose love drove her to give life to her daughter a second time two years ago when she donated a kidney to her daughter, Cindie Gittelman, who has diabetes.

A second chance

“In my heart of hearts, I knew everything would go well,” says Rothstein, of Marina del Rey, California. Rothstein says she first decided to donate her kidney to her daughter who was close to facing kidney failure after living with diabetes for more than 30 years and had been on a kidney recipients’ waiting list for two years.


“When she was at the end stages of renal failure, I decided I better do this,” says Rothstein. “She could have been on a list for 10 years and I told her she better consider getting it done soon because I might not have been able to do it later on in my life.”


Rothstein’s and Gittelman’s surgeries were successfully performed at a Phoenix, Arizona hospital and both mother and daughter have continued on with their lives. “I would have rather she not have the diabetes,” says Rothstein. “As a mother you want to kiss your children’s troubles and make them better, this wasIris Rothstein and daughter Cindie Gittelman the only way I could make it better for her.”


Gittelman, now a real estate agent in her 40s, said her mother’s ultimate gift of a kidney has given her a new lease on life. “My mother is very humble. She’s an amazing woman and extremely giving,” says Gittelman. Receiving her mother’s kidney has also given Gittelman a unique appreciation for new foods.


“After getting my mom’s kidney I was craving fish, and I wasn’t a real fish person before — so it was funny because my mom likes fish,” Gittelman says.

An even stronger bond

Even before their surgeries in 2001 years ago, Gittelman says she had a strong bond with her mother — one that has continued to blossom. “In the hospital, the day after the surgery I was in pain and on some drugs, but I made my way to my mother’s room on another floor where we had a pajama party, and we had a lot of laughs even though it hurt to laugh,” says Gittelman.


Fouad Kandeel, Gittelman’s doctor and director of the department of diabetes and endocrinology at the City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, California, says kidney transplants have become more common in the last 10 to 15 years in the US because of advances in drugs that suppress the immune system and prevent the human body from rejecting a donated kidney.


According to statistics from the National Institute of Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC), in 2002 approximately 18 million people in the US were reported to have diabetes, with more than five million cases of which are undiagnosed.


The NDIC’s records also indicate that in 2000, diabetes was the sixth leading cause of death in the US. Various serious complications arising from diabetes includes heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, blindness and kidney disease, according to the NDIC.


The City of Hope, through government funds has been at the forefront of developing treatments for diabetes and will soon begin trial Islet Cell transplants, says Kandeel. This procedure involves removing a group multiple cells that produce insulin and other hormones from a healthy individual and injecting them in a diabetes patient’s liver. As a result, these healthy cells injected into the diabetes patient are hoped to regulate blood sugar levels in the recipient and ultimately prevent the effects of diabetes.


Kandeel also says Gittelman will be eligible for the procedure in the near future as the City of Hope’s research progresses.


Moving forward to help others

Gittelman says her frequent visits to the hospital over the years has inspired her to start her own business by making jewelry identification bracelets for hospital patients– of which some of the sales will benefit kidney transplant-related organizations.


“Being diabetic for 36 years, they [doctors] always wanted me to wear them [identification bracelets], but I wouldn’t because they looked ugly,” says Gittelman. “They were not attractive, so my husband and I decided to design and make hip and trendy ones from sterling silver, gold, or with crystals.” Rothstein reaches out to others as well. She says those faced with medical tragedies in their families can best overcome their difficult times by keeping hope alive and being generous in helping save others lives.


“Never give up hope, there will be a cure in your lifetime and I would talk to everyone and tell them not be afraid, you can live so beautifully with one kidney,” says Rothstein. “If you’re in good health, why not give it [kidney] to someone who’s in need.”

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