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Deerfield synagogue helps local man seeking kidney

Gary Marti Greenberg Deerfield have been married for 28 years. | Phocourtesy Marti Greenberg

Gary and Marti Greenberg of Deerfield have been married for 28 years. | Photo courtesy of Marti Greenberg

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Updated: February 5, 2014 3:26AM

Rolling Stones fan Gary Greenberg, and his wife, Marti, have had one rock song running through their heads lately: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

“But if you try sometimes you just might find you get what get what need,” Mick Jagger continues to croon in the tune.

The lyrics resonate with the Deerfield couple now like never before. At 73, Gary Greenberg is on the verge of kidney failure and is in dire need of a live organ transplant.

None of his immediate family members are a viable donor.

So another line from a ’60s classic comes to mind: “I’m gonna try with a little help from my friends.”

After her husband’s diagnosis Oct. 28, Marti Greenberg sprung into action, sending an SOS email to notify friends and family across the country about his condition.

“I understood the words of the nephrologist, but in my mind I’m fighting for my husband’s life,” Greenberg said. “After I got out of the shock, I said (to Gary), ‘There is no way we are not finding you a living donor.’”

Doctors said he has end-stage kidney disease and predict the organ will fail in three to six months. The wait time for a kidney from a deceased donor is approximately five years due to a backlog of people in need.

“A preemptive transplant is Gary’s best chance for survival and quality of life,” Greenberg explained. “Any other scenario diminishes his life expectancy and diminishes his quality of life.”

For the past months a core group of 15 supporters known as “Team Gary” have been organizing a digital and paper campaign to find a donor match.

“From that little meeting, this thing has just mushroomed,” said Wheeling resident Lorrie Weinberg, a cousin of Gary Greenberg. “It’s astounding what’s been accomplished in three weeks.”

The network of do-gooders stretches from the North Shore to the far west suburbs of Chicago. Greenberg’s sister-in-law in Lake Geneva, niece in Bloomington, and friend in Oregon are also contributing remotely.

“The bottom-line is my husband and I have this beautiful friendship circle,” Marti Greenberg said. “We support each other and sustain each other.”

The team members are not experts in marketing but they are highly organized. With designated roles and tasks, each is sharing the family’s story and need through flyers, business cards, a website, and Facebook.

Greenberg wants others to know her husband is an average man with an abnormal condition. For the past 35 years, he’s lived with only one half-functioning kidney. Until now that hasn’t set him back, she said.

A health nut and psychologist, Gary Greenberg dedicated his career to helping adolescents, and continues to see clients at his practice in Northbrook. He and his wife have two adult sons.

Marti Greenberg said their “other extended family,” B’nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim Synagogue in Deerfield, also issued a call for help by emailing their plea to its 1,100-member congregation.

“BJBE is a place for me that really walks the talk,” she noted. “I feel like they genuinely care about me and my family.”

“It’s been profound to witness the levity and positive tone of a very serious situation, and I think that speaks beautifully to the success that has taken place in terms of rallying the cause and mobilizing the troops,” added Kelly Goldberg, the youth and family engagement director at B’nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim. “It really speaks to the power of community.”

Team Gary’s efforts have already paid off, as four Good Samaritans contacted Northwestern Memorial Hospital to express a willingness to be tested as a donor.

But until a match is made, the Greenbergs’ network will continue to ask people with big hearts and a “kidney to spare” to step forward.

“We’re all doing whatever it takes,” Weinberg said.

“Whatever it takes,” Greenberg echoed.

Gary Greenberg expressed his gratitude for their efforts in an e-mail to the Pioneer Press.

“I am so very grateful for the concern, support, and extraordinary kindness of the team of family and friends who have joined my wife and I in an effort to find a living donor kidney,” his said. “I am very touched and uplifted with hope that I have so many caring people to help me have the opportunity for a longer and better quality of life.”

Marti Greenberg, for the most part, has remained positive and composed since receiving the news, but tears up when thinking of the compassion her family has felt.

“I’m overwhelmed by all the love and support,” she said. “What else can I say but ‘Thank you?’”

For more information about the Greenbergs’ cause, visit

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