Saving Alfie

The Jewish News
Robin Schwartz

Robin Schwartz

Local woman launches desperate search to find
a kidney for her ailing brother

A miracle saved their mother from certain death in a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust, now Fran Parker of West Bloomfield is hoping for a modern-day miracle to save her big brother’s life.

Alfred Klein, 70, of Yucca Valley, Calif., has been diagnosed with Stage 5 renal failure. Three days a week, he is hooked up to a dialysis machine for several hours at a time to purify his blood — something his kidneys can no longer do. Doctors say he needs a transplant to survive.

“In California, the waiting list for a kidney transplant is six to eight years,” Parker explains. “We need to find a living donor. I am trying everything to save my brother.”

At one point, Alfred was placed on a transplant list in Nebraska, with the hope that he’d be able to find a donor more quickly there. But, after a hospital stay and some complications from a pain medication he was given, he was removed from the list for additional testing.

That’s when Parker turned to social media, launching the Facebook page “Saving Alfie With A Kidney Donor.” She is holding out hope that a family member, a friend, a neighbor or even a total stranger who sees her online messages might be a willing donor and a match.

“My brother’s blood is type A positive,” she wrote in one post. “He is compatible with A positive and negative as well as O negative and positive. He is a brilliant, kind, generous, spirited guy. One person can make a difference in another person’s life by giving life and learning about the process.”

According to the nonprofit Living Kidney Donor’s Network, there are currently more than 80,000 people on the kidney transplant waiting list. Among the criteria for becoming a living donor, a person must be in good general health, have normal kidney function and be between 19-70 years old. Several tests must be performed to determine whether the donor is a match for the intended patient before a transplant can take place.

“I truly appreciate everything my sister is doing,” Alfred said. “It’s just a question of finding somebody who wants to do a mitzvah because this would essentially give me my life back.”

Survivor’s Son
Luckily for Alfred, survival and longevity run in the family. His mother, Viola Greenberger, is 96 and in good health. A twist of fate — where she and another woman in line at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp swapped papers, switched identities and changed positions in line — likely prevented her from being killed like her parents, four siblings, grandparents and other relatives along with her friend, the famous Anne Frank. She was liberated from the death camp on April 15, 1945. Alfred is her first son.

“He represented new life after devastation,” Fran says. “My mother is still alive and strong. She does not know how ill [Alfred] is despite being sharp. She lost an entire family to the Nazis; now she could lose her first-born son to kidney disease.”

The family moved to the United States, settling in Detroit in 1947. Fran and Alfred, just 18 months apart, grew up together. After graduating from Oak Park High School, Alfred attended the University of Michigan and Berkeley Law School. He spent his career working as a labor and employment lawyer in Los Angeles and earned a spot on the “Best Lawyers in America” list.

“He was a ballroom and swing dancer. He also acted in a documentary and in his local community theater. He was an avid hiker,” Parker says. “My mission is to save my brother so he can have quality of life again.”

Since launching the Facebook page, Fran has heard from numerous people, including scam artists claiming they’re trying sell a kidney and others with information to share or stories of hope. In September, Alfred will travel to U-M Hospital in Ann Arbor to be evaluated and hopefully accepted as a transplant patient. That way, if a serious donor comes forward, he’ll be ready to go.

“We are in a race against time,” Fran says. “My mother’s life is full of losses and she could not endure another one.”

Alfred says while the dialysis leaves him exhausted, he has an optimistic outlook and is otherwise in “terrific shape.” He gets by with the help of a caregiver (the same woman who helped care for Fran’s husband, Dr. Phil Parker, before he lost his battle with cancer last year) and the companionship of his three German Shepherds. He looks forward to the day when he can hike again, dance again and perform on stage again.

“From where I’m sitting, the prospect of getting my life back is just huge,” Alfred says. “Hopefully, I will find a match.”

In this photo taken in Detroit in 1949, Fran is being held by her mother, with Alfred standing.
Alfred with his nephew Daniel

If you or someone you know is interested in learning more or becoming a donor, visit the “Saving Alfie With A Kidney Donor” page on Facebook or go to the website eocchadd.wixsite.com/savingalfie.

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