Behind the Scenes at Ezer Mizion

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The strength of a few words, softly whispered, carefully transported on the beams of a gentle smile. They bring a surge of vigor — vigor with the power of a tsunami! That was Mayan. Only nine years old but with the ability to imbue others with her profound strength. Mayan had been stricken with leukemia. While her friends were learning to jump rope, she was spending weeks at a time in a scary hospital witnessing what no child should ever see. Ezer Mizion staff and volunteers supported her and her family emotionally, psychologically and practically with a broad range of programs. All those who met her commented on her strong will to fight this battle and win. Mayan spent a great deal of time at Ezer Mizion’s Oranit, a guest home for cancer patients and their families to live during the duration of treatment. It was a fun, cheery place to be after the morning ordeal of chemo. She could try her hand at a musical instrument, do crafts, climb the monkey bars at the playground or feed a rabbit at the Petting Zoo. Happy and upbeat, on her way to her next activity, she heard a discordant note. Several women were discussing their illness. “I have no strength!” said one. Our nine-year-old giant headed toward the group. In a powerful embrace, she sent sparks of potent vitality to   the woman who had spoken. “What do you mean you have no strength? G-d only sends cancer to people who are heroes!”

A stem cell transplant was needed to save Mayan’s life. Ezer Mizion was thrilled to find a perfect genetic match in its Registry. Success! Mayan is fine now, playing jump rope with the best of them. In her nine years, she has accumulated many plans. Places she’d like to visit. Things she’d like to do.  An exciting occasion was coming up. She would soon meet the donor who had given his stem cells to save her life.  She created a scrapbook of all her plans and at the meeting and presented it to him. “Because of you, I’ll be able to do all this. Because of you!”

Nowadays transplants are done via stem cells, a much easier process than removing actual bone marrow. The blood is collected much like a blood donation, the stem cells removed and the remainder of the  blood returned to the donor via the other arm. A several hour process, it is admittedly time consuming but with only minor discomfort and the donor is able to return to his normal schedule the next day. Very occasionally, the patient’s condition will warrant an actual bone marrow transplant, a very different procedure.   Tomer had registered with Ezer Mizion and was familiar with the stem cell routine. A few hours of his time was a small price to pay, he thought. He was very much looking forward to receiving that electrifying call: You can save a life! But it didn’t work out that way. The voice on the phone asked him if he’d be willing to undergo a bone marrow transplant. The marrow would be removed from his pelvic bone. Surgery? Anesthesia? Pain? Recuperation? Tomer was taken aback. But only for a moment. He quickly rallied and assured the caller that he was ready. There were no trumpets. No drum roll. Just a quiet smile on the caller’s face. He wasn’t surprised. One of the many heroes in Israel who know what it means to save a life.

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