Israeli family here for kidney transplant needs help

Yossi and Yifat Shriki came to the South Bay a month and a half ago from Israel with their three children, and she is pregnant with their fourth.

They are not here on vacation, nor to escape hamatzav — "the situation," as it is referred to back home.

They came so their 3-year-old son, Etan, can have a kidney transplant at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford.

The Orthodox family is from Mevohoron, a village near Modi'in, in the center of the country. Yossi works in the computer industry.

Etan's kidney malfunction was detected when he was still in his mother's womb. He began having dialysis three times a week when he was 7 months old.

While kidney transplants are common in Israel, they are not among young children, said Yifat Shriki.

"We asked doctors and rabbis, and we decided we want the best," said Shriki. "Here at Stanford they have the most experience in the world, so we understood we should come here."

Before coming, the Shrikis raised money from family members and friends. They also found a donor with a kidney compatible with Etan's. His father wasn't a match. His mother was, but she is pregnant, so a 20-year-old cousin will fly in from Israel to be the donor.

The transplant was supposed to take place in April, but had to be postponed because Etan caught a virus. So now they are awaiting May 8 as the scheduled date. "B'ezrat HaShem" (with God's help), Yifat said.

She is due to give birth shortly after, but with her other three pregnancies, she delivered early.

The two events may happen concurrently, she said, adding, "I hope the baby will wait."

Meanwhile, the family has been receiving help from the local Jewish community and from the children's hospital.

The hospital has a program to help patients' families with free housing, but since the transplant was postponed, the family had to move once already, and must leave its current place by May 1.

Honey Meir-Levi, executive director of the Ronald McDonald House, said the facility is not yet equipped to handle families of the Shrikis' size. Meir-Levi does have another family lined up to host the Shrikis beginning May 7, and said providing housing for the duration of their stay was definitely a goal.

Nonetheless, there are many expenses. The family needs kosher food and a car — the one at their disposal now seats five, and there will soon be a sixth.

When the family first arrived, groceries had been purchased for them.

The Shrikis expect to stay in the area at least four months after the transplant, as these are "critical days," according to Yifat Shriki. If Eitan's body responds positively to the kidney, he will still have a minimum three-week stay in the hospital, and will need to visit the hospital afterwards for frequent checkups.

Meryl Urdang of Menlo Park read about the family's plight in the bulletin of Reform Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills. Along with some other people, she has been coordinating volunteers who can help the family.

Urdang's daughter, Sara Tannenbaum, will celebrate her bat mitzvah on May 3. She has donated some of her babysitting money to the Shriki family, and has adopted the Shrikis as her mitzvah project. Those coming to her bat mitzvah have been asked to bring food or toys for the family.

Yifat Shriki said her family has been in contact with some local Israeli families, and expressed gratitude for what help they had received from the local Jewish community. Nonetheless, the transplant and the family's needs are clearly weighing on the young parents.

"I know there are people out there (who can help)," said Meryl Urdang. "They're a wonderful family."

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."