Dr. Hugh Pollack needs a new liver. In an emergency, it’s best to be direct, and there it is.
Dr. Pollack, a dentist, beloved husband and father to a son and a daughter — both of whom married rabbis, all of whom live in Bergen County — former Ramah president, former president of Town and Village Synagogue on East 14th Street in Manhattan, former Zamir Chorale Foundation board member, former United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism board member, former Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan board member, former Ramaz parent and Ramaz alumni chorus member, member of DVI: Dental Volunteers for Israel, and generally larger-than-life Jew — is suffering from liver failure.
He needs a liver from a living donor. Because livers, unlike most other human organs, can regenerate, recipients just need part of a liver. A potential donor must be under 60 years old. Some of the other eligibility requirements include compatible blood type, which in this case is A positive, and no history of alcohol or substance abuse or Hepatitis C.
Dr. Pollack, who is 69, grew up in Midwood, Brooklyn — he still has friends from kindergarten there, his wife, Martha Heffner Pollack, said.
He and Martha met at Brown, when he was a junior and she was a freshman, and they’ve been together ever since. They live in Stuyvesant Town, in sort-of-lower Manhattan.
The Pollacks have two children. Their son, David, is married to Rabbi Lindsey Healey-Pollack, who leads Congregation Kol HaNeshamah in Englewood. Their daughter, Deb, is married to Rabbi Gabe Cohen, the assistant rabbi at Temple Emanu-El in Closter. David and Lindsey have two children, and Deb and Gabe have one. (Rabbi Cohen’s older brother, Simeon Cohen, also is a rabbi; he leads Temple Beth Shalom in Livingston.)
Dr. Pollack has nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, a condition that did not bother him until he had hip replacement surgery last summer, Ms. Pollack said. Then he started getting sick, and then sicker and sicker and sicker still; eventually his condition was diagnosed, and after many tests, with many hopes raised and then shattered, he was put on the transplant list.
Their world has shrunk with surprising speed, Ms. Pollack said; they had to close Dr. Pollack’s dental office, where his patients — many drawn from his many friendships at Ramaz, Ramah, Town and Village, and elsewhere — were truly like family (yes, that’s a cliché, but like many clichés it’s based on deep truth).
Dr. Pollack was diagnosed only after Rosh Hashana, but time has been moving extraordinarily quickly for him.
So the Pollacks are hoping that a donor, someone young enough and qualified by blood type and by altruism, will donate part of his or her liver to Dr. Pollack.
Some of the practical issues are taken care of. If at all possible, the surgery is done laparoscopically, which makes it much easier on the donor; the liver regenerates quicky. Dr. Pollack’s insurance will cover the donor’s costs.
Learn more about donating part of your liver by calling 646-962-4438. Weill Cornell Medicine, where Dr. Pollack is treated, has posted a form for people thinking about donating. Find it here: www.nyp.org/livingdonorliver