Learning to Dance

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.

–Vivian Greene

Hi dear family &  friends.  Happy St. Patrick’s Day to those who celebrate!

As Gary and I put on our dancing shoes while weathering the fluctuating conditions on our journey it would be most helpful if we could find a couple of people who enjoy writing and have a creative flare with words who would be willing to serve as volunteer bloggers for us.  We are looking to post once a month for now.  Maybe more frequently down the road.  Can explain more about what we have in mind once we hear from you.  I can be reached at martigreenberg@gmail.com.  Thank you.  Love, Marti

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Long Time No “Talk”

Hello to our dear friends and family.  It has been quite some time since we last spoke.  Well, we would like to do something about that.  We have decided to resume our “conversation” with you.  Gary has seen many ups and downs since we were last in touch.  The good news is that he has remained stable.  Grateful for that.

As we move forward on this wild ride we thought it would be helpful if we reconnected with our loving support community.  So, you can count on hearing from us every now and then as our journey continues.  Join us in fastening our seat belts and navigating this crazy ride.  Much love, Marti.

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Gary Shares His Story……………..

2011-10-21_14-59-08_392I’m here to talk of my life–saving journey, an unbelievably humbling as well as inspiring one, I must say.

My journey has been quite long, starting in 1978, when I was diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Insufficiency, having had only one kidney, and that one was functioning at about 50%.  Now, that’s the good news in that my kidney has lasted so long, way beyond any expectation of my doctors.  I don’t fit any of the traditional predictable kidney trends.   For that, I am eternally grateful.

The bad news is that last October I suffered from a severe viral infection that affected my kidney functioning to the point of reaching the stage of renal failure.  At that point, my nephrologist recommended I find a live kidney donor in anticipation of a transplant, since she predicted that my kidney would totally fail within 3 to 6 months.  This action would be the best choice for me over a deceased donor kidney or dialysis.  A deceased donor was not really an option because there is a 5 to 7 year waiting list, and a transplant versus dialysis was my best opportunity for a better quality of life and a greater life expectancy.

As you might imagine, this really threw me into a major funk, a numbness that drained all the life out of me.  It wasn’t just the reality of the seriousness of my illness, but now in an effort to find a kidney, I also had to make very public my need for the help of others and my own vulnerability.  This ran very counter to my own internal proclivity to be private as well as self-reliant, but it was to be the first of many, uncomfortable personality stretches that though painful at first, in the end presented me with the opportunity for personal growth.

My saving grace was my wife Marti, Team Gary, and BJBE.  Marti was the impetus, the organizer, the cheerleader, the driving force, and my guardian angel for a remarkable team of family and friends that carried out a national campaign to find a kidney for me.  This gesture just blew me away, fueled my spirit and soul with hope, as well as further validated my faith in humanity.

Team Gary was uplifting and inspirational in its belief that failure was not an option.  Harvey Mysel, a double kidney transplant recipient himself, provided us with the roadmap of how to set up our multifaceted campaign.  After educating ourselves on what steps to take, we contacted our niece Laura, and within 24 hours, she set up a webpage and a Facebook page to spread our message.  Then, Marti reached out locally and around the country (California, Florida, New York, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington) to convene our team.  The team was a source of innumerable creative resources.  There were posters put up throughout various communities, buttons worn, a You Tube video, a website with weekly blogs, a Facebook page, Twitter accounts, business cards, flyers, Emails, tables with volunteers at events, Pioneer Press articles, JUF News articles, reaching out to churches, synagogues, corporations,  universities, alumni  associations across the country and more, much much more.

The BJBE crusade was particularly heartwarming to me.  Marti presented a number of options how they might help to the clergy and staff, and their response was that they would not just do all of them, but more.  Immediately, a congregational –wide Email was sent out by the clergy, personally appealing to the members to be tested as donors.  There were appeals from the Bima on a weekly basis and recruiting tables set up for our volunteers at public events.  The Caring Community had postings in the weekly electronic Bulletin, and the Social Action Network reached out to other synagogues on our behalf.  Updates were regularly posted in the monthly print Bulletin as well as in the Shabbat handout, and clergy sent out various appeals on their social networks.

In addition, senior staff Kelly Goldberg kindly volunteered to be an active member on Team Gary, and Brian Kunz, a congregant who donated his own kidney to a neighbor, made himself available to talk to anyone having interest in donating to me.

Lastly, there was the constant and continuous show of support, caring, and prayer from the clergy, staff, and congregation that served to sustain us throughout this 8 month ordeal.

The outcome of all this wondrous effort was that an unbelievable 7 donors were accepted as kidney matches for me.  I was emotionally in awe of what goodness there can be in people.

The next step was my going through numerous pre-surgery testing to assure that I continued to be a good candidate for a transplant.  I am extremely thankful that all went well, and I was given the green light.  Then, a new curve appeared in my travels.  My internist had been taking me off various allergy medicines and vitamins to see if this might have any effect on my kidney.  Lo and behold, my functioning stabilized, returned to my baseline, and off the renal failure level.  This really represented a mixed bag.  On one hand, it really uplifted me and gave me new hope.  On the other side of the issue was this is the optimum time for a kidney transplant and waiting could close the door on that option. We were tormented, confused, and our heads and hearts were spinning.  In an effort to get clarification on this issue, I decided to seek physician opinions as to what actions to take, and being prone to analysis paralysis, I decided to stop after 6 recommendation as if that wasn’t a bit of excess.  The outcome score was 4 to 2 in support of leaving well enough alone, at least for right now.  The coup de grace was that my incredible kidney donor indicated that he/she (anonymous) would hold off until I was ready.  That gesture literally took my breath away.

I, now live one day at a time, grateful for each day of health and all the blessings my life provides me.  I’m tested monthly and in contact with the kidney transplant team every 3 months.   I have the choice of worrying or living life.  Being the optimistic Agnostic that I am, I let go to G-d and say, I choose life.

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Personal Life-Saving Journeys

BJBE, our synagogue, is sponsoring a learning opportunity on Saturday, September 20 at 7:30pm at BJBE in Deerfield, IL.  (Followed by S’lichot service at 8:30pm)

Gary and I have been asked to serve on a panel that has been described as follows:

God-given knowledge, human skill and humanitarian generosity have enabled technologies, such as organ, stem-cell and bone marrow transplant, to save so many lives around the world and right here in our community.  As we prepare to enter into the High holidays, our panelists will reflect on their personal life-saving journeys: the struggles and challenges, the beautiful stories of human kindness and the inspiring spiritual insights that have changed their lives.

You are welcome to join us.  For more information contact BJBE at 847-940-7579.

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Gary Health Update

Gary_outsideGary’s journey has had many twists and turns since we last spoke with you.  After an exhaustive search for answers over the last 8 months we have landed on the best treatment plan for Gary at this time.

We first had to clarify and remind ourselves what our goal is.  The goal here is to choose a treatment that can provide Gary with the best quality of life and the greatest life expectancy.

We have decided that Gary will not have a kidney transplant at this time.  He will be monitored on a monthly basis and check in with the transplant team every three months.  Gary’s kidney function has not improved per se but it has stabilized.  He is currently free of symptoms.  He is feeling pretty good.

We have been advised to stay on the current course unless any one of the following three circumstances occurs:

  1. Gary’s medical test results take a turn for the worse
  2. Gary has a collection of symptoms
  3. We are at risk of losing our beautiful and generous living donor

We are at peace with this decision for now.  We want to just move forward and enjoy life. We feel so much love and gratitude to all of you who have and continue to stand by our side.

We pray and hope that our current viable living donor and the backup donors will not abandon us.  We hope they will continue to make themselves available when the timing is right, when the transplant becomes Gary’s only chance for a quality of life and greater life expectancy.

In the meantime, a big piece of “enjoying life” for us is helping others.  We plan to devote much of our time giving back, joining others in trying to make a positive difference in people’s lives.

Sending love and gratitude…

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What brings you hope?

Hope is the bridge

To the next stage of your life.

Go forward

With hope in your heart,

You will not fall. – Karyn D. Kedar


Honestly, I never really thought about hope.  Not until Gary needed to find a living kidney donor did I wonder if I could stay hopeful day after day, week after week, month after month.

I guess everyone finds a different path to hope.  For me, I find hope every single day through the unwavering love and support of friends, family members and our spiritual community, Congregation BJBE.

As if that wasn’t enough, I was fortified and inspired even more when the courageous heroes stepped up to donate their kidney to Gary.  Yes, the goodness in people fills me with hope.  It fortifies and inspires me daily.


Hope is like peace.  It is not a gift from God.  It is a gift only we can give one another. – Elie Wiesel


Please share with me what brings you hope.  Send me a note.

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Gary Campaign – Such Humanity

Wow- I could not believe those words.  The words from the Northwestern Memorial Hospital transplant team nurse, “Mrs. Greenberg, you can put a hold on your search for a living kidney donor.”

What?  Really? I exclaimed.  What does that mean? I asked.  The nurse explained that they were working up a strong candidate and there are one half dozen potential donors as back up.

I was in shock and disbelief.  I was beside myself – giddy with excitement, overwhelmingly relieved, and consumed with gratitude and love.  Full of love for people I did not even know; yes, complete strangers because individual potential donors are anonymous.  Maybe the person is my neighbor, the clerk at the local Jewel, a congregational member I see at Kol Shabbat on Saturday mornings, maybe an old high school pal or a person from across the country in Oregon.  I have no idea, yet I immediately feel unconditional love and gratitude for this person and the rest of those who have stepped forward.

Now what?  Next steps include Gary going through a rigorous battery of pre-transplant testing.  We have completed two trying days so far. May 13 will be our third day of several doctor appointments and tests.

Will Northwestern give Gary the green light to move forward?

Will a living kidney donor sustain his or her courage and generosity through to surgery day?

Oh my, please continue to stay with us and hold us close, as we venture forward on this uncertain journey. Your compassion and kindness, and your humanity give us strength and courage each and every day.

Love Marti

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Social Media- What’s the Verdict?

ImageSocial media is the interaction among people in which they create, share or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks.

What is the verdict?  Has social media helped or hurt our efforts to find Gary a living kidney donor?

Let’s turn to our three social media gurus……

It all started on October 28 when we learned of Gary’s prognosis.  Laura Fox, Gary’s niece was contacted and within 24 hours she had our story splashed on the Internet through our customized website and Facebook page which she created.  In 24 hours we were telling our story to thousands of people.

Laura had to step away from the campaign to welcome their second child into the family.  In walked two more incredibly sharp social media specialists Marilyn Mages and Alicia Carpenter.

Marilyn came to us with an extensive background in communication.  She was excited about making a contribution to our cause, to making a difference in our lives.  She believes that social media is a very important tool for generating exposure and recruiting people to help.

“Stepping outside of yourself and helping another person is important.  It really does take a village.” Marilyn shared.

When Marilyn joined Team Gary she brought with her another maverick, Alicia Carpenter.  Alicia has a background in graphic design and marketing.  She was attracted to social media because she saw it as the “up and coming” method.

Alicia has been very creative in using social media to spread the word on our behalf.  She knows how to think outside the box to get the job done.

Alicia feels “social media helped to spread the word, gained us more followers, assisted in Team Gary community building and helped to educate the public on the need for living organ donation.”

Well the verdict is in…..
Thanks to Laura, Marilyn, and Alicia social media has been a tremendous asset in our efforts to find Gary a living kidney donor.  More than 12 individuals from across the country have stepped up to be tested.  We are hoping to have good news soon that a viable donor is found, Gary is cleared for the surgery and the transplant is scheduled.

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World Kidney Day


For more information click here


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This Event Has Been Cancelled

Save The Date!

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