Beth Israel to mark anniversary of congregant’s kidney transplant

Jerry and Eileen Chiat
Jerry Chiat, who had a kidney transplant 10 years ago, and Eileen Chiat (Haydee M. Rodriguez)

On May 24, Jerry Chiat will celebrate the ten-year anniversary of his life-saving kidney transplant.

Beth Israel Congregation, where Chiat and his wife Eileen Chiat are members, is marking the occasion during services on May 21. Beth Israel Rabbi Jay Goldstein will call Jerry Chiat to the bima, and Goldstein will recite “Mi Shebeirach,” a prayer for health and wellness, in honor of the 10-year milestone and of modern medicine. Goldstein will also speak on the mitzvah of organ donation.

Plans for a special celebration at Beth Israel are also in the works.

Jerry Chiat was at death’s door in 2011. The 75-year-old Owings Mills resident’s potassium levels were dangerously high. Eileen Chiat rushed him to a clinic, then a hospital, where he was eventually stabilized and placed on dialysis or, as Jerry Chiat prefers to call it, “live-alysis.” The treatment required driving to the hospital early in the day and staying most of the day, a process they repeated three times a week for a year.

In 2012, Jerry Chiat was placed on a kidney transplant waiting list and soon moved up the list after learning about “the chain,” a process where a patient waiting for a kidney transplant can move up when a family member donates an organ.

Although Eileen Chiat was not a match for her husband, she did donate a kidney to a stranger. Chiat in turn moved up the list and was able to receive a new kidney from an anonymous donor. Upon mutual agreement, the Chiats were able to meet Chiat’s donor, Peggy, who died in a tragic car accident in April 2019. Because the organ donor process is confidential, only Peggy’s first name is used.

Medically, Chiat continues to take several medications to ensure that he remains healthy. He is tested monthly to ensure that the kidney continues to function properly.

Professionally, the Chiats continue to work at their Owings Mills-based business, Acclaimed Promotional Specialties.

And, personally, they are deeply committed to serving as ambassadors to educate the public at large about organ donation with organizations that were there for them at a critical time: the National Kidney Foundation, The Living Legacy, TRIO (Transplant Recipients International) and the University of Maryland Medical Center.

“I have made health decisions that have improved my health,” Jerry Chiat said. “I refused to gain weight during COVID, I watched what I ate, I learned to say no to sweets and have learned to walk away” from unhealthy foods.

Whether they are speaking to high school students, attending health fairs or other public events, the Chiats expressed their gratitude to Peggy, Chiat’s kidney donor, and to the medical professionals who made the transplant possible and who continue to make sure that the kidney fulfills its mission: to give Chiat a second chance at life.

“We recently read in our Torah the source for one of the most important concepts in Judaism, called pikuach nefesh, saving a life,” Goldstein said. “This mitzvah rises above all the others in priority. I still remember the incredible intricacy 10 years ago of finding donors/recipients from family and friends to enable Jerry to get and Eileen to give a kidney. To this day, one of the first things I ask a couple getting married is if they are a donor.”

Haydee M. Rodriguez is a freelance writer.

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