According to a story from northjersey.com, Adam Levitz’s life was hanging in the balance just a few weeks ago. His liver, which had endured years of damage from the rare bile duct disease primary sclerosing cholangitis, was starting to fail. His situation was even more difficult because of his Crohn’s disease; inflammatory bowel disease, of which Crohn’s disease is one type, commonly appears alongside primary sclerosing cholangitis. Thankfully, Adam’s life would be saved thanks to Rabbi Ephraim Simon, who donated his own liver tissue.
About Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis
Primary sclerosing cholangitis is a progressive, long term rare disease which affects the function of the liver and gallbladder. It is most characterized by the scarring and inflammation of the bile ducts, which are essential for allowing bile to exit the gallbladder. It can ultimately lead to cirrhosis and liver failure. It also increases the risk of several types of cancer. Although it is regarded by many as an autoimmune disease, it does not respond to immune system suppressants, so the precise cause of primary sclerosing cholangitis is poorly understood. Most patients also have some form of inflammatory bowel disease. Symptoms include itching, jaundice, portal hypertension, abdominal pain, malabsorption, hepatic encephalopathy, and dark urine. Treatment of primary sclerosing cholangitis is symptomatic and supportive, and there are currently no approved treatments specifically for the disease. To learn more about primary sclerosing cholangitis, click here.
Ephraim and Adam’s Story
Ephraim Simon is part of the Orthodox Jewish Hasidic movement which carries a strong tradition of community outreach. He felt called to donate a portion of his liver to Adam primary because of prior experience as a kidney donor. He donated a kidney to another man in 2009 and also helped save his life. Although the operation had its risks, Ephraim hoped that his action would inspire charity and selflessness in others, including the members of his congregation at Teaneck Chabad House.
It was difficult for Ephraim to donate his liver to Adam; there are additional risks in doing a liver donation from someone who had already given a kidney, and many hospitals will not conduct the operation. The procedure was eventually conducted at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.
Thanks to the liver’s regenerative ability, only a third of Ephraim’s liver was needed for the operation; as a living donor, it would be impossible to donate his entire liver. The material from his liver, now inside of Adam, is expected to be at full capacity in under two months.