I Love Her with All My Heart

A stem cell transplant saved my life! L-R Debra and Zohar

I hadn’t been feeling well and decided that a visit to my doctor was the right thing to do. Picking up the blood results was just one of the things on my long list of Things To Do that day. It would be a long, long time till I could get back to that list.

There I sat in the chair opposite him as he perused the first page of the blood work. “Hmmm. Looks ok….” Then he turned the page. His face changed color. His muscles tensed. “I can’t understand how you are sitting here in front of me! You belong in a hospital!” he fairly shouted. An ambulance was called. My list was forgotten and I found myself on a hospital bed receiving an emergency blood transfusion.

And that was just the beginning. Next in line, in our battle against the monster named Cancer, was chemotherapy. My body had been weakened and there were some very scary moments there. My husband was terrified, my mother devastated. “For them! For them I have to get better! I just have to!” I cried inside myself.

The words of a highly insensitive nurse were not encouraging, to say the least: “I hope you have all your business affairs in order.”

“Why is she saying that to me?” I screamed in silence. “I’m not going anywhere!” 

Soon we were down to playing our last card. I was told that a stem cell transplant was my last chance to survive. Unlike medication, a transplant cannot be procured at the pharmacy. It must come from a genetically matching donor. And at that time, there was none…

But there was hope. The registries were searching. Perhaps soon one will be found. Before it’s too late. 

And then came the day that will live forever in my heart. The phone rang. I could hear the bubbling joy in the voice of the caller. A tiny flutter of hope began to well up within me. “I’m calling from Ezer Mizion Bone Marrow Registry. We found a match!”

Tears of joy streamed down my face. A match! Life! Who is this angel who is willing to do this for a stranger she has never met?!

Due to legalities, I had to wait at least a year to meet Zohar. The angel who gave me another chance at life. I lived in Florida and she lived in Israel and so we got to know each other via email. When she finished her stint in the Israeli army, she took a job as a guide in a zoo introducing children and adults to the wonders of the animal world. It was In Israel that she received the call from Ezer Mizion notifying her that she was the only one in the world that could save a life. My life. 

“Wow! This was the most exciting news I ever received. My cousin had gone through a bout with cancer. This was my chance to pay it back and save another person,” Zohar relives the moment of that exhilarating call.  

Then began the next phase of her life: moving to New Jersey and, shortly afterwards, marriage. New Jersey is closer than Israel to Florida but not close enough to actually meet. It wasn’t until a major Ezer Mizion event, the Fireworks concert of 2022, that the two met onstage in front of thousands of people. There were tears. There were hugs. And the walls of the theater trembled with emotion. “I love her with all my heart,” cries Debra.

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