Image copyright Getty Images Image caption One kidney was donated by a woman from Dubai, but another ended up in Israel
One day in December 2016, my husband and I walked our daughters down the wedding aisle, to the cheers of their small Jewish community.
We couldn’t recall a time when these celebrations were anything but joyous, filled with family and friends. But here, the bride stood among a sea of black and white. Her sister’s family had taken her out of Jerusalem to take part in a kidney exchange.
Next to her, in a hospital gown, a young Emirati woman lay awake in a bed, her eyes were heavily bandaged. She was faking it.
Asking questions, getting excited, she was literally painting the town ‘Rouba.’ And what a lovely town it was – built by King Saud bin Abdulaziz and designed in the style of Versailles.
She came to Israel for two weeks as part of the very rare medical, and a very expensive one at that, world first surgery undertaken between Israelis and Emiratis.
Most kidney transplants take place in hospital in China or India where costs of equipment, medical professionals and the transport costs to move the donor and recipient overseas are a fraction of the cost to put a patient into a private Israeli hospital.
So this kidney exchange between Israel and the UAE was ground-breaking in terms of economic benefit.
And the recipient? Well, she chose to be called Sara after a brand new Facebook page was created when we posted pictures of the donor. All Sarah’s friends in Israel started to follow the same page and they too started to raise funds for her operation.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption She underwent surgery two months after the operation
“We didn’t know what to expect, and she’s a mystery woman,” Sara said to us in Hebrew. We were shown a picture of her beautiful face in hospital.
“I told the doctor I don’t want blood, and I am not at all a risky patient, I have a normal kidney, I’m just not aware of it,” she told us at the end of her journey.
Her body was receptive to the organ, so when we met her again she was walking and standing up without any hint of discomfort.
She was in tears when she hugged us and said: “Thank you so much. It’s so nice to see that I’ve received good treatment.”
“It was your support that really brought me through,” she told us. “I wanted to work hard on my recovery, so the fact that people are understanding me shows how strong I am.”
Photo caption: Anais Korsiy was sent to Israel for the kidney transplant
It was clear to us that Sara was proud of herself.
There was another, even more remarkable survivor at the hospital – 21-year-old Anais Korsiy.
Having endured a terrible car accident – her liver and part of her pancreas had to be removed – she was sent to Israel for the kidney transplant.
One side of her body still lay in a severe scar, and her lower back showed how painful the surgery was.
“Even today there are things I cannot do,” she said tearfully. “Sometimes it’s hard to walk. But that does not get in the way of me wanting to help others.”
And it had been her father, ex-Paratrooper Thomas Korsiy, who took her on the long journey from Nice in France to Israel, where she underwent another operation after her kidney was removed.
“I know the risks that she faced,” he said, reassuring her during her second hospital stay. “This operation will help many people who are in need of organs.”
His daughter, who has an impressive blood collection rate, is now recovering at her home in south-west France.
Her first job after the transplant was with a Jewish organisation doing patient transport. She is now looking for a corporate sponsor to pay for something like a membership for her to take part in an endurance race in Israel, which is expected to cost upwards of several thousand dollars.
We travelled across the Sinai desert to the Gaza border and spent a week with her family – it brought us back home to where we started. All over the world people need kidneys and most do not get them. In the New Year, I hope everyone will think of others who are going through the same pain Sara and Anais were.