Aviel’s gift of a kidney
A few days ago I wrote about Aviel and his courageous decision to leave his life in the UK to go to Argentina to donate a kidney to his father.
I had the opportunity to chat with Aviel at length about his decision, a decision that, for many, could have been much easier not to make.
Aviel’s childhood, and much of his adult life, has not been an easy path. Many who experience such insecurity tend to become bitter that they have not had the best start, or blame their parents. However, Aviel has the spirit to see that his challenges, and the people in his life, have been some of his greatest teachers, and his clearest mirrors.
Aviel’s life began in Israel, born to Argentinian parents. His dad, Horacio, and his mum, Ilana, although both from Argentina, had met and married whilst living in Israel. They had a stormy relationship, and Aviel remembers when he was 6 years old, they were considering divorcing, but they didn’t quite get that far.
Aviel described his father as very strict, who would often use a belt to mete out discipline. Whilst frowned upon these days, it was not considered so harshly abusive around 30 years ago. What hurt Aviel more than the discipline was his father’s inability to demonstrate a loving parental bond, although he says he accepted his father must love him as he is his father. Aviel worked hard to seek his father’s approval, but never felt like he could quite achieve it.
At 8 years old, the family moved to Argentina to live. However, during the years 1980-1984, there was big political strife in Argentina; it was during the Falklands war, and when Aviel was 12 years of age, Ilana decided to return to Israel as she considered it more peaceful there. Horacio, however, decided to stay in Argentina, so they did begin their divorce at that point. Aviel recalls they received two letters from their father, but then nothing.
When Aviel was 15, Ilana remarried and they moved to a kibbutz. which is a mostly self-sufficient community where the main occupation is agriculture. This obviously shaped Aviel’s future as he met his future wife on another kibbutz, and when he later moved to England he spent much of his future life living and working in voluntary agricultural communities, training young people with disabilities.
At 19 years old, Aviel met his wife. It was a very compelling attraction, which progressed very quickly, within a couple of weeks, to them living together. Almost immediately, his wife showed unpredictably violent behaviour to him, and although Aviel was initially shocked, he somehow quickly accepted that, in his experience, this was how some people showed their love, as this was what he had experienced from his father, and so not put off by this, he married her. He had an Akashic Records reading done, and was told that he had known her 3 times in past lives, and this seemed to be why the attraction was so strong.
At the age of 22, by which time Aviel and his wife had moved to England, Aviel received word from his mother that his father was back in Israel. Aviel flew to Israel to meet Horacio twice, the second time taking his wife, son and daughter with him. Aviel described their meetings as quite ‘official’, they were interested in each other’s lives but he felt their interaction lacked familial emotion.
Over the following years, Aviel and his father established some email contact, although brief and very infrequent. Aviel remembers if he contacted his father, Horacio would respond, but was never the one to initiate contact. During these years, Horacio had returned to Argentina.
At the age of 28, after the worst instance of violence from his wife to date, Aviel knew he had to leave his marriage. He took up a voluntary position at an agricultural community in Yorkshire, where he made the organisation aware of why he had come to them, and they were very supportive to him and helped him establish safe contact with his children, the eldest of which, his son, was only 6 years old, and his two daughters. The attraction between Aviel and his wife was still strong, however, and Aviel described the break-up as ” the hardest and most freeing thing (he) ever did”. Looking back, he believes she represented the relationship he had had with his father.
Over the last 3 years, Aviel’s impulse to see his father again became stronger, he had not seen him for over 14 years. By this time, Aviel’s son, who was now 16, had come to live with Aviel at the community project. Shortly after, Aviel received an email from his father saying he was ill, but Horacio was quite evasive and played down the severity of his illness. On investigation from other relatives, Aviel discovered that Horacio was on dialysis and more ill than he would admit.
Aviel’s life became turbulent again; changes at work led to him leaving the community project, and he was now readjusting to being a full-time father again. Luckily he found another project to go to where his son’s needs were met as well as his own. But he was desperate to see his father. His concerns became greater as his dad was still not being open about his illness. Horacio still never made the first move to contact Aviel, only responded briefly and quite distantly.
Aviel heard from relatives that Horacio’s only hope now was to receive a kidney transplant. Aviel did not hesitate to email Horacio to tell him that if it was possible, Aviel wanted to donate a kidney. Horacio refused. He did not want Aviel to risk his life for him. One might wonder if Horacio felt he didn’t deserve for his son to make such a sacrifice for him, after his not being around or close to his son for all those years. Such a thought did not cross Aviel’s mind; he just knew it was something he wanted to do, but got the impression his father didn’t care if he lived or died. Sometimes, as humans, we feel it is easier to refuse a gift than to accept that we would in fact be very grateful for it, especially if we feel we may not be deserving of it.
Aviel made arrangements to visit his father, who had now married, in Argentina in mid-2013. Aviel believed this may be his last chance to see his father. Horacio lives in Neuquen, which means flying to Buenos Aires first, before flying on to Neuquen.
Two days before Aviel left for Argentina, his telephone rang and he recognised the caller ID as being from Argentina. His eyes began to water as he described how he just stared at the screen for a few moments before answering. I sat nervously listening to Aviel, as I thought he was going to relate some bad news, but it was quite the opposite. Aviel was overcome with emotion as he joyfully told me it was his father calling him. For the first time in his life, Aviel’s father had initiated personal contact with Aviel. This was a huge breakthrough for them both, and Aviel now knew that his unfailing love for his father was being felt by Horacio and reciprocated.
Horacio was calling Aviel to find out when he was due to arrive in Buenos Aires as Horacio wanted to meet him there. This concerned Aviel as his father was seriously ill now, and doing the journey from Neuquen to Buenos Aires would involve Horacio either missing a dialysis treatment or arranging to have dialysis in Buenos Aires. Horacio would not be deterred though, and Aviel was absolutely overflowing with joy as he described the emotion of their meeting in Buenos Aires airport. They met with a HUG, and this was a mutual hug. Horacio and Aviel moved towards each other and met halfway at the airport. This completely dispelled Aviel’s earlier one and only fear of the trauma they may both feel if they were unable to emotionally open up to one another, the painful feeling he had experienced at earlier meetings.
During Aviel’s visit, he met Maritte, Horacio’s new wife. Aviel felt his father’s attitude to life improving, and again made the offer of his kidney. Horacio became more receptive to considering the offer, and in time said he would really be open to it if it were possible. Aviel’s immediate response was “Great. He wants a kidney. How can we make this happen?”.
Aviel stayed with Horacio and Maritte for around six weeks. In that time they investigated what was needed in order for Aviel to donate his kidney. They found that Aviel satisfied 2 out of the 3 criteria necessary for the donation to occur: he was the same blood group, and he was a genetic match. Two other people had also been investigated as potential donors: Maritte, who was the same blood group, but wasn’t a gene match; and Horacio’s sister, who was a gene match, but the wrong blood group.
However, this wasn’t quite enough to satisfy the third criteria, that the donor had to be a blood relative, a requirement in Argentina. Although biologically, they knew Aviel was his blood relative, but because Aviel was born in Israel he was not registered in Argentina as a relative of Horacio. So the next step was to go to the Israeli embassy and obtain a copy of Aviel’s birth certificate. By the time Aviel had to leave Argentina in October, this hadn’t arrived yet, but he has since had communication that it is now at the Embassy waiting for him to collect.
When the time came for Aviel to leave Argentina, again his love for his father was palpable as he described their emotional farewell at Neuquen airport. Aviel’s plane was delayed by 3 hours, and they both saw this as a blessing and filled the time with learning more about each other and cementing their bond. Then ill as his father was, Horacio stood and waved to Aviel the entire time Aviel left the terminal building until he boarded the plane.
Although seeing his father on dialysis was painful, Aviel is very philosophical about life, and why, even though painful, some things happen to us. Aviel sees his father’s illness as a blessing in some ways. Perhaps the suffering has forced Horacio to accept the situation, and surrender to accepting the love of his family and the people around him. And perhaps the reason why Aviel was his only possible donor was for the purpose of bringing them together.
Sometimes it is easy to criticise our parents for not being how we see some other parents with their children, but we need to remember that just as we are a product of our parents and upbringing, so are they a product of their own parents and upbringing. We often don’t know what kind of upbringing our parents had, but when we become older and wiser, we can often gauge this from how our parents are.
Aviel also got to know and love Maritte during his visit and knows his father is in good hands. She will ensure he is kept strong enough until the transplant can happen.
During the several hours I enjoyed chatting with Aviel, I did not sense one single ounce of fear or trepidation about the transplant, only excitement that he could do this for his father.
Aviel was upset about leaving his 19-year-old son and his animals, although he knows his son has a secure apprenticeship with the community project they both live at, which is growing organic and biodynamic crops. His son will move into Aviel’s lovely, comfortable static caravan (he currently has his own trailer caravan next door), and he will take care of Aviel’s beautiful cat Howee, a huge Maine Coon, and his dog Elsa, an even huger Leonberger. The photograph on the right here may show them as average size animals but, believe me, they are both huge! As we sat chatting, Elsa was laid on the sofa between us, sucking on a sweater of Aviel’s. Aviel said she has been doing that a lot lately, he says she knows there is something going on, as dogs do.
Aviel knows his position at the project, and the attached accommodation, is not guaranteed to still be available when he returns to England, but he showed little concern for that. That concern pales into insignificance and is unimportant to him when he considers his higher purpose.
Although it was evening time in the middle of winter, I could just about make out Aviel’s outdoor surroundings in the dark. His caravan is surrounded by forestry and rivers, and as well as his agricultural work, he looks after the pigs, sheep, goats, donkeys and chickens that live in the areas around his caravan. As I left, the moon was full and huge, and I had a sense of his quiet life, surrounded by nature, that must be a big influence on his knowing that nature and all life works perfectly. There is meaning and purpose to everything, and Aviel has found his purpose, to love unconditionally and save his father’s life. I believe there will be more than one life saved by Aviel’s amazing gift of love.
Aviel’s gift of a kidney