Because of You!

December Bone Marrow Registry Report

2021 Bone Marrow Registry S
ummary

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A Vacation from Cancer

Enjoying their vacation from cancer

Countless families are living under the horrific tension of dealing with the life-threatening disease that we don’t even like to mention. The occasional relief of tension does wonders for their psyche and revives the spirit enabling it to partner with the body in its battle for life. To provide emotional relief from the tension of cancer, periodic retreats are scheduled where the whole family can re-bond in a convivial, upbeat atmosphere.

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Because of You!

Your monthly stem cell transplant report:

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Disability = A Life of Nothing?

My legs are disabled but my mind is not!

Sometimes you see me on the street, waiting at the bus stop on my motorized wheelchair. Your looks are especially pitying when the bus pulls up at the stop and the driver comes out to open the ramp so that I can get on the bus.

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Lonely No More

Holocaust survivor siblings meet after almost 2 years

Aharon Shmueli, a holocaust survivor, is part of a large family but he was lonely.  Confined to his wheelchair and further restricted by covid isolation, he and his eight siblings had not seen each other for two years. When asked by Ezer Mizion to choose a ‘wish’, it took only seconds for his decision: a family get-together. Would Ezer Mizion be able to make it happen? To bring nine elderly siblings, many with mobility problems, together? Aharon’s excitement could not be contained. “Any update?” he would ask whenever he saw the Ezer Mizion staff member. His every daydream was what he wanted to tell them, the eight people in the world with whom he shared a special relationship. As children, they lived through the horrific experience of their escape from Tolousse, France, the terror of hiding out in a farm managed by their father, scared that any moment may be their last. Together they shared the rebuilding of their lives. Marriage. Children. And now old age.  As Sara, one of the sisters, put it, “When we get together, we become children again…connected…strengthened…whole.

The senior citizen residence that was Aharon’s home became the venue and four fully-equipped Ezer Mizion ambulances were set aside to provide transportation for the Shmueli family members who were not able to travel alone. And suddenly there they were. With hugs and kisses. With shouts of joy. Once again sitting around a table together. Laughter and tears. Two years of experiences to share as only brothers and sisters can.

Azaryah Shmueli commented that “for almost two years, we didn’t get together, all of the siblings. In the past, we used to meet at least three times a year. It was really difficult to organize the meeting. Some of the siblings are disabled, some live out of town.”

At the end of their dream-like day, Aharon expressed his feelings with deep emotion.   “Thank you for making my wish a reality.”

Wheelchair-bound, mobility challenged … but together at last

Naomi Mizrachi, director of Ezer Mizion’s “Fulfill a Wish”: “It is a great merit for us to make dreams come true for elderly holocaust survivors. Even when the wish is challenging, we do everything in our power to carry it all out in the best possible way. So far, over a year and a half we’ve been privileged to make about 780 wishes come true. The wishes were as varied as the people making them for one it was a trip to the ocean, for another, it was a shopping trip at the mall. And a third wanted to get together with an old friend whose address she didn’t know. Many wished to visit the kosel(Western Wall). Or daven (pray) once again in the shul (synagogue) of their youth. Tremendous efforts are involved in working out the logistics in a manner that is safe for these precious survivors. (Yes, we found the address of the friend.) But the happiness on the faces of these holocaust heroes is well worth it. ”

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To Really See. To Really Care.

It’s a talent. An innate ability found in only a few. The ability to notice. To really see. To understand what someone else needs. Only a few have it but the few can give it over to the many.

Rabbi Chananya Chollak

Chananya Chollak, who founded Ezer Mizion in 1979, was such a person. A new chosson (groom) who would be expected to be involved in his kallah (bride) and not be able to see anything outside of new marriage, was spending time with his hospitalized father-in-law and became aware of the many problems facing the families of the patients.  It was there that several divisions of the future Ezer Mizion were born. What began with 8 volunteers to provide meals for family members spending hours at the hospital bedside and a professionally outfitted van to transport the wheelchair-bound has mushroomed into an empire of chessed with 30,000 volunteers, all who have absorbed Rav Chollak’s ability to really see and really care. 

Cancer Support Comes in Many Forms

Like Rina, a patient in the oncology ward. She was battling for her life but right now, uppermost in her mind, was her daughter who would normally be celebrating her bas mitzvah. What with all energies going toward fighting the cancer, this most special day was expected to pass with hardly a blip.  But Rina was an Ezer Mizion client and that made all the difference. Professional studio pictures taken at her home. A sweet table to vie those at the fanciest event. A cake donated for the occasion by an elite patisserie. A makeup artist for both of them who would wield the wand and turn them into princesses.  No detail was omitted by Shula, the volunteer who really saw and really cared.

Caring Eases the Trauma

Then there was the recent fire in Yerushalayim. People were being evaluated en masse. The need to evacuate was obvious and the volunteers were working hard. What wasn’t so obvious is the fact that a group of yeshiva bochurim (students) had not had anything to eat since the early morning. Moments after they arrived to safety, there appeared pizza pies galore. The starving boys never would have asked but grins on their faces showed how welcome the unexpected treat was.

A Day to Look Forward to for the Disabled

The first step in creating a new division is seeing the need. Matan in Nechalim was born because it became obvious to Rav Chollak that handicapped adults need something more than care. They need self-esteem – the kind that comes from accomplishment. And how can they accomplish when they cannot even move from here to there? Ideas were tossed around, debated, discarded, re-evaluated until a full program came into being. A program that gets these talented young people to leave their homes early, excited to begin their day. They’re taught 3-D printing, crafts, and much more…skills that can generate income, activities that create positive social interaction. Recently their creations were proudly displayed at a fair where crowds converged at the individual tables where each one’s products were admired and many purchased.

The files are filled with thank you notes from people who are longing to express their gratitude for the practical and emotional support. Many join our volunteer groups, anxious to give back to others what they received in their time of crisis. And many are accompanied by donations but none so poignant as the following written in childish scrawl:

I’m a 12 year old cancer patient sending you my donation. I want to thank you with my whole heart for all the good and fun things you give me.

Thank you so much,

Y.S.

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A Cancer Hospital Synagogue: Not the Typical Bar Mitzvah Venue

Cancer and Bar Mitzvah: Not a Good Mix

From Motty’s Mother

I am the mother of seven wonderful children. My oldest, Motty, was almost bar mitzvah. At the school where I teach, I was also the “Corona coordinator,” so my days were filled .

 I could hear Motty from the next room reviewing the haftarah (Portion of the Prophets to be read in honor of his Bar Mitzvah) . What an uplifting feeling! I couldn’t detect anything unusual about the way he was standing. Probably those complaints about his leg were just growing pains.

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Down, Down, Down Until…

Dear Ezer Mizion Volunteers,

You know me as “Moshe the dialysis patient,” who has many other problems that are secondary effects of my kidney disease. You did not know me before, when I used to run on my two feet, get up before dawn for my Daf Yomi shiur (Talmud lecture), daven vasikin (pray early with sunrise), come home and help my wife get the children out, rush to another eight-hour work day at the carpentry shop, and then return for my shiur (lecture) in shul (synagogue) and Maariv (evennig prayers).

I was a strong person, until an aggressive bacterium attacked my kidneys and quickly knocked them out of use. I started undergoing enervating dialysis treatments 3 times a week. At first I would travel by bus, trying with all my strength to at least get to davening (prayers)and a bit to the carpentry shop. But, to my sorrow, the situation declined. Physically and emotionally.  I did not have the energy or the desire to meet anyone. I didn’t feel like leaving the house and seeing other people. I traveled to the hospital by taxi and that ate up the allotment I got from Bituach Leumi. With time, my condition deteriorated further and, today, my legs are almost non-functioning and I am labeled an invalid. My wheelchair has become an inseparable part of me.

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HE GAVE LIGHT

A stem cell transplant miracle speaks at his Bar Mitzvah

There he was, speaking with enthusiasm, with confidence in front of several hundred people. A newly minted adult Jew in his pristine Bar Mitzvah clothing, chosen with such care for this very special occasion. Flanked by his father and grandfather, he was too involved to notice the tears in their eyes as they remembered. Scenes from his babyhood flashed through their minds and   enhanced the significance of this momentous evening a thousand fold. His father thought of the day he was born when he first heard the shouts, “It’s a boy! It’s a boy!” His joy was boundless. Avichai’s grandfather recalled how he would stop by the house every day on his way to work just to see Avichai. “He’s my pal. He makes my day!” And they recalled the day their world fell apart.  When their precious Avichai was diagnosed with leukemia. The baby’s uncle was Dr. Jerry Stein, the director of the Bone Marrow Unit at Schneiders, a major hospital in Israel. His professional knowledge did not allow for any rosy dreams. He knew that 50% of these patients die. “My heart fell out of my chest when I heard the news!”

Will a stem cell transplant donor be found?

The only hope was Ezer Mizion’s International Bone Marrow Registry, the largest Jewish registry worldwide. A stem cell transplant was needed to save this young life. Genetic matching between donor and recipient is vital for success. A search was performed. The computer raced through hundreds of thousands of names. The staff held their collective breath. The family sat glued to the phone immersed in the timeless words of Tehillim (Psalms). Would the response be the ominous words: No Match Found, a virtual death sentence? Or would there miraculously be a genetic match? From the millions of Jews that inhabit the earth, would there exist a near perfect DNA match? Would he be among those registered in the Registry? A click, a bing. A sound barely heard in the busy office. The computer had stopped at a file. His name was Ziv. His parents had named him Ziv which means light, because he had brought light into their world. And now he was about to do the same for Avichai’s family.

Avichai after his Stem Cell Transplant with Ziv, the Donor

“Would you be willing to donate to save a little boy’s life?” he was asked. The question hardly made any sense to him. “What is the question? Of course, I would donate.”

A year later, the two families met. The little boy, now a healthy, mischievous two-year-old, handed Ziv a present, a Chanukah menorah, a candelabrum of light, and gave his new friend a hug. The atmosphere was electric with unspoken words. Avichai would live!

Avichai Thanks Ezer Mizion for Finding a Stem Cell Donor for him

His family rubbed their eyes. The audience of hundreds were listening intently. Many knew his story. Was this a dream? No, it is real. Avichai has become a man. A Bar Mitzvah bochur (young man). He would grow and mature. He would marry and raise a family who would, in turn, raise their own families… generations…eternity.  

Bar Mitzvah Celebration with Avichai Dancing with Ziv who Made Possible the Life-Saving Stem Cell Transplant
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What Can You Say?

Rare Glimpse Into the Home of Rabbi Shteinman - Israel National News

What can you say? She was a young woman. Recently stricken with ALS. She had a family. Some of her children were still so small. Can you say, “Everything will be fine.” She’s too intelligent for that.  She knows what her diagnosis means. Rav Chananya Chollak, Founder and International Chairman of Ezer Mizion, was called. His sensitivity enables him to speak to people undergoing life’s crises and give them strength to go on.

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