Becoming Israeli Saved the Life of a Georgian Tourist

A 19-year-old woman from Georgia here on Birthright Israel underwent an expedited naturalization process in order to be eligible for a life-saving emergency liver transplant.

A few days after Miriam Kishishvili came to Israel with the Birthright trip for Jewish young adults, she began complaining of pains and swelling in her limbs and stomach.

Professor Ran Tur-Kaspa, director of Internal Medicine and the Liver Institute at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, determined she was suffering from a serious liver infection.

At Beilinson, Kishishvili was diagnosed with a severe case of Wilson's Disease, a genetic metabolic disease that causes copper to collect in the liver and, at times, other organs, such as the brain.

"In some instances, like this one, the patient is not aware of the disease until a serious outbreak causes severe damage to the liver, kidneys and circulatory system," said Tur-Kaspa. "The only chance to save the patient's life in this situation is a liver transplant."

The doctors believed Kishishvili would not survive the trip home to Georgia to undergo surgery there. So the administrative staff turned to Nativ, seeking its help in getting Kishishvili's aliyah approved, so that the transplant could be done locally.

Nativ submitted the immigration request, and the absorption and interior ministries expedited her citizenship process.

"In light of the woman's serious medical condition it was clear to me that we were obliged to do whatever we could to save her life," said Dr. Boaz Tadmor, director of Beilison Medical Center. "From the moment we made the decision, even though we didn't have the funding, we worked quickly to get her immigration approved."

The naturalization process took three days, after which Kishishvili was quickly taken to the operating room.

The doctors had asked Kishishvili's mother to come to Israel in order to donate part of her liver, but on the day before the surgery, an Israeli donor was found.

The liver was transplanted by Professor Eytan Mor, director of the Transplant Unit. After a stint in intensive care, Kishishvili's condition has improved.