“From today, you are a part of us. Osher, you are our “osher,” our joy”
With these moving words, Yossie Ben-Chamu (66) from Jerusalem addressed Osher Ankonina (40) from Teverya, the stem cell donor who saved his life.
Right in the middle of Chanukah, a thrilling encounter took place between the two at Oranit. After a difficult period of illness, Ben-Chamu was told that only a bone marrow transplant could save his life. After an auto-transplant was unsuccessful, Ezer Mizion’s Bone Marrow Donor Registry came into the picture, and a matching donor was found for him — Osher.
The transplant brought to an end a long and grueling period of treatments. To the exciting meeting between the two, Ben Chamu brought a gift — a Chanukah menorah designed according to the Djerba tradition. Ankonina immediately identified the traditional menorah, since his family is from the same ethnic background. “I am standing here, opposite you, an open miracle, all thanks to you, baruch Hashem. You gave me hope and life,” said Ben Chamu tearfully.
“The meetings between donor and recipient carry great importance for the patient, too, but primarily for the donor,” says Dr. Bracha Zisser, director of Ezer Mizion’s International Bone Marrow Donor Registry and Oranit.
“For the patient, the meeting is a chance to say “thank you” for the gift of life that was given to him. But for the donor, it has even greater significance: He gets to see the one whom he saved and understand the meaning of his donation. Many times, people say regarding a stem cell transplant, “Whoever saves one Jewish life, it is as if he saved an entire world.” But the transplant does not only save one Jewish life; it saves the lives of all the patient’s relatives — his children, parents, friends — entire worlds whose lives were saved, thanks to the donation.”
Ezer Mizion’s Bone Marrow Donor Registry is the fifth largest in the world, numbering 1,052,113 potential donors. So far, 3,801 lifesaving transplants have taken place, among them, 43 transplants that were done just this past month.
What’s the best birthday present you ever received? I’ll tell you what mine was, says Noy Arielli. It was an opportunity. An opportunity to give to someone I didn’t even know. An opportunity to save the life of another Jew. My Rabbi had said that a birthday is a time to celebrate being alive and to use the day to give to others. So you can imagine how grateful I felt when the opportunity to do just that fell into my lap. A bit before I had received a call from Ezer Mizion Bone Marrow Registry. I had completely forgotten about my having registered with them about 8 years ago. But they didn’t forget. They keep people on the database for decades in the hope that someday they will be found to be a genetic match for a cancer patient whose sole chance of survival is a bone marrow transplant. When an oncology clinic calls – it may be from any part of the world – it’s important that a match be found soon. You see, a cancer patient can’t wait. Ezer Mizion is the largest Jewish registry in the world and has over a million potential donors. Well, the computers began their search. I can imagine the tension in the room as the little circle went round and round. And then click! My name lit up. From all those million files, it was my DNA that matched. They were still nervous, they told me later. Maybe the donor is too involved in a new job or is on vacation or is expecting a baby or maybe she’ll just plain back out.
The ring on my phone was like that of any other call. I didn’t know it was my birthday present on the line. When they asked me, I nearly shouted, “Yes! Of course I’ll do it.” The questions came afterwards. I needed information but there was no doubt in my mind that i would do it. I already felt a connection to the recipient. Him? Her? A child? A grandmother? It didn’t matter. When my birthday came, I sat there for several hours, just smiling with happiness. I was really saving a life!
Of course, my role was only part off the story, a third of what Ezer Mizion calls the Triangle of Life. Before that, funds had to be raised to pay for the genetic testing of new registrants. That came from all of you out there who donate so generously, sometimes in highly unusual ways. Like the employees of the Israeli high-tech company, Syna Media. They got together and voted on each one donating a day of his vacation to Ezer Mizion. This donation culminated in an astounding sum of 200,000 Shekels to Ezer Mizion’s bone marrow registry. This amount will be used towards swabbing 555 potential stem cell donors who will be added to the constantly expanding registry. Some of those will one day be the lucky ones and receive the same call I did.. all because the Syna Media people gave up one day of their vacations. Pretty special, wouldn’t you say?
|Donor Pool Name||October 2020 Transplants||Total Transplants|
|Elliott & Lynn Dolin||1||7|
|El-Ad Modiin Community||1||2|
|David & Sara Farajun||1||144|
|Guardians of Life||1||2|
|Yaakov David ben Simcha Mordechai||1||5|
|Hole In One||2||76|
|Lechu Neranena Raanana Community||2||7|
|Rubin & Mollie Lazarus||1||3|
|Liat, Noam & Eden Neubert||1||1|
|Ronald O. Perelman||1||41|
|George & Pamela Rohr||1||80|
|Ira & Ingeborg Rennert||1||172|
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!”Continue reading Behind the Scenes at Ezer Mizion
To my very dearest donor,
Some people my age are still kids but I was forced to grow up fast. It hasn’t been an easy life. Until fourteen, I was like everyone else. You know. Playing ball, studying for tests, doing pretty well in school except for math. I had a lot of friends and life was great. Until it wasn’t. Until I found myself alone in the hospital. My friends weren’t allowed to visit and even if they had been, they were probably too scared. I know I would have been if it had been someone else lying there attached to tubes and sick with a disease that people didn’t even like to mention. I got chemo treatment. I couldn’t even dream of a ballgame. Every time I pictured the ball flying through the air, I got more nauseous and had to grab that basin fast. But the chemo did the trick, at least for a while. And the cancer seemed to disappear. Then at nineteen, the monster was back again. This time there were no triumphant handshakes from the medical staff. No banter like “We never want to see you here again.” This time, they weren’t sure. I got a bone marrow transplant, the kind where they use your own cells. It was grueling and the ‘maybe it will work, maybe it won’t’ I was hearing was no comfort.Continue reading From the Ezer Mizion Files
BONE MARROW DONOR REGISTRY ACTIVITY SUMMARY
In September 2020:
27 transplants, 23 of these from donor pools
3,724 total transplants
10,033 new members this month
1,045,002 total members in registry
Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Slovenia, UK, USA
Donor Pool Countries
Brazil, Israel, Mexico, UK, USA