No. He Didn’t Do Anything Wrong

pr bmr Lieutenant TLieutenant T. just received his Pilot Wings and yes, he is quite proud. At the young age of 23, he has accomplished even much more. Lieutenant T. has saved a life.  During the course, he was called out by the Division Officer. “Did I do something wrong?” His mind was in a turmoil with all sorts of negative scenarios running through his head until the officer smiled at him saying, “Ezer Mizion would like to speak with you. It seems that you are a possible genetic match for a leukemia patient.”

“What an about face! Suddenly I was a potential hero!”

“It turned out I was a great match for a lady with cancer.  I checked it out with my parents. After all, it was a big step.  They were 100% on board and excited that I had been given this opportunity.  And so the light turned green and it was all systems go. I took off a few days to have the injections that they give you to increase the stem cells in your blood. And then came the big day. Perfectly comfortable with reading material and visitors,  to occupy me as blood was removed via one arm, stem cells separated and blood then returned to me via the other arm. It took several hours but was painless and I felt fine.  It is definitely a great privilege to take part in such a process.

Anyone who is contemplating donating should know that it’s simple. Nothing to worry about. Within a day or so, you’ll be back at work and soon will have forgotten all about it. But I can tell you from experience that on the other side, no one is forgetting anything. They’re ecstatic with joy as your stem cells seep into your patient’s bloodstream. And they never forget. Not days later, not weeks later, not even years later.

About a year after the transplant, when it was legal to do so, I received a letter from a lady in America. She introduced herself as the one who received my stem cells. She said she is in her fifties and has three kids. She had had leukemia and needed that transplant to stay alive. I couldn’t believe what I had accomplished! Just minimal discomfort on my side but for Nancy. I had given her back her life.

She invited me to come visit her in the US and I invited her to visit me in Israel. So far, neither has happened but we both hope someday… Meanwhile, we’re getting to know each other via email.   My message today is unequivocal: Give! Donate! There are so many still waiting in line. Subsidizing the cost of the genetic testing or getting tested yourself or both. It’s such an infinitesimal effort, compared to what you are granting them.

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Mazel Tov! We’ve Reached 1,000,000!

pr bmr Omer Babi - 1 millionth potential donor in registryBecause of your generosity, Ezer Mizion, world’s largest Jewish registry, has reached the MILLION MARK! What does that mean?   The success of a bone marrow transplant is dependent on the genetic match between donor and recipient. With Israel’s wide range of ethnic groups, many of them IDF recruits,  we have succeeded in amassing a registry of ONE MILLION potential donors. These registrants are  of highly varied genetic makeup so that when a cancer patient is in need of a bone marrow transplant, the chances of finding a DNA match in time, before it’s too late, are very good! However, there are still many who wait in hope and prayer for the match that will mean LIFE and we will not stop enlarging the registry until until every single request received from any part of the world can be answered with a triumphant, YES! WE HAVE A MATCH!

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Each genetic test costs $50. Your gift will help save lives.
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Flying High

pr bmr Ofer-DAvid- flying high
A a compassionate IDF soldier…a stem cell transplant facilitated by Ezer Mizion… and here i am – alive today!

Flying 35,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean is not an easy job! Ofer had already spent 17 years as a fighter pilot in the IDF. In 2003 he left the reserves and joined El-Al full time. “Most people don’t realize that being a pilot is a very dangerous profession. When you know it is dangerous, you are safe but when you think it is easy, when you’re a cowboy, you are unsafe! A pilot’s job is to always be alert in case something happens.” Ofer always remained alert with hundreds of travelers under his wing, quite literally! Continue reading Flying High

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But I Feel Fine

RH 19 interviews Eric Safire 3
Post transplant, thanks to Ezer Mizion

Utter shock. That’s what I felt sitting there in the doctor’s office. It was a busy time for me. I’m a lawyer and I was in the middle of trying a complex murder case. But it was time for my annual physical and, feeling virtuous and responsible, I took time off to have it done even though I had zero symptoms. Then the doctor asked me to sit down. Something in his serious tone of voice told me I would not be getting back to my murder case too quickly. Continue reading But I Feel Fine

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When Numbers Become People

numbers
Cancer patients: Not a number but real people!

Everyone knows that the number of cancer patients has skyrocketed. Studies give us numbers but it’s hard to empathize with a number. So let’s meet some of the people behind the numbers. Like J.G.. He’s young with two kids, aged 5 and 7. He works as a massage therapist and personal trainer. But for a long period, he wasn’t able to work at all. Actually that’s not true. He was working very hard to remain positive during his stint with chemo. “It was tough,” he says. “The hardest part was being away from my kids. They were living their lives and I couldn’t share it. I just ached for that hug around the knees when I would open the door. I thought that after chemo, I’d be done but the doctors told me I needed a bone marrow transplant. They were not too encouraging as I had an unusual chromosome and they felt it would be difficult to find me a genetic match. So here i was, a father of 2 small kids and being told that I probably will not be here to watch them grow up. Well, let me tell you, Ezer Mizion found me not one match but 4. I try to give back to others now but it can never be enough to pay back Ezer Mizion for what they did for me.”

RH 19 interviews - Rita Soyka
Formerly a cancer patient. Now doing just fine!

R.S. is a middle-aged, upbeat lady with a bouncy personality. “Who, me?” she thought to herself when her doctor sent her to a hematologist. She had come in for a routine physical and her blood count was a bit high. Her daughter-in-law, who is a physician, later said she never would have sent a patient to a hematologist for such a low count but Rita is eternally grateful that her doctor was the cautious type.

Things began to heat up at this point with test after test and each doctor looking more serious. It was lymphoma. Rita was devastated. “My heart was pounding as each test was done. I calmed down when the team presented a plan for me. It made me feel secure and they assured me that things looked good. Facing the unknown was so hard.  I made a conscious decision not to fall apart. I tried to think only about what I had to do, not get emotional over the future. I would tell anyone newly diagnosed- Stay focused, Take it one day at a time. Be proactive and check out a/t that looks questionable. If you live in a small town, don’t be satisfied with the medical care available. Seek out the best even if you have to relocate temporarily. And, above all, don’t give up.”

RH 19 interviews - Steve Pomerantz - art only
Positive, cheery, upbeat–that’s me, these days. The cancer is history.

S.P. was diagnosed in 1998 and given 10-15 years to live. He had three kids ranging from two to nine. Even the oldest was not told what is going on. They just knew that their father wasn’t feeling well sometimes.   “Boy, was that an understatement. The side effects of the meds were horrendous, including depression and suicide tendencies. I found out later that most people on these meds take disability but I’m the type that doesn’t give up so I kept on working.  This treatment wasn’t given until many years later, in 2014. By this time, I was newly remarried and my kids were adults, not getting along very well with their stepmother. There I was, lying there helpless and having to listen to the people I loved most argue with each other regarding my medical decisions.  Not fun. But things are great now. I had my transplant.  I’m much stronger and my family has gelled.  We’re all on the same page.

I used to be very involved in sports. Those days are gone for now but I have a new hobby. I’ve discovered painting. I find creating watercolor designs to be very satisfying. And the results are quite good if I do say so myself.”

Three real people. Three real people who were floating through life until they reached a bump in the road. They could be your neighbors. Or your cousin’s neighbors. Stay tuned till next week when we will meet with more.

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It Was A Good Day

pr bmr - donor in India
Volunteer couriers carrying tubes of life to Israel for testing

What is a good day? Many people would say that a good day is when everything you planned works. No hitches. No slip-ups. And what does one do when there are hitches? Get frustrated, of course. Rant and rave. Find someone to blame. Typical, right? Very human.

But when someone’s life is at stake, we can’t afford to be human. Shouting will get us nowhere. So we become creative instead. Continue reading It Was A Good Day

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L’chaim! To Life

hourglass
A cancer patient cannot wait!

He was eight years old. Third grade is a time for small boys to learn multiplication tables in the classroom and how to pitch a ball in the schoolyard. But Naftali* had learned neither of these. Instead he learned about IV’s and scary hospital equipment, about hair falling out and about roommates who ‘disappeared’ never to return. Naftali had cancer. The medical staff called his parents in for a meeting. There was only one recourse left: a bone marrow transplant. It would save his life but a genetic match would have to be found soon or… it may be too late. Jews will genetically match other Jews and so Ezer Mizion was contacted. Ezer Mizion’s registry with close to a million potential donors is the largest Jewish registry in the world, but, for Naftali, it was not large enough. There was no match. Continue reading L’chaim! To Life

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What Was It Like?

puzzle piece- menchie
DNA matching is essential to a successful stem cell transplant

She’s back. Our data processer is back in her usual seat, glued to her computer as usual. Entering the data of recent donations to Ezer Mizion’s Bone Marrow Registry. Doing her part to help save lives around the globe.  As if everything were normal. As if she had not just now come back from Israel. As if she herself had not just donated her stem cells to save the life of a middle-aged woman with AML.

But there’s a difference. There’s a glow on her face. While her co-workers continue their varied tasks to benefit the Registry, she, a young girl, had experienced something that most people can only dream of. She had saved a life.

We’ll let her tell you her story. Continue reading What Was It Like?

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Too Minor to Mention

pain
Even severe pain would not prevent her from helping to save a life

Four years ago she had registered with Ezer Mizion’s Bone Marrow Registry, never expecting to actually be contacted. The call came as a complete surprise. It was the registry informing her that she was a possible genetic match for a young child. She could save his life!  She was glad she was home to receive the call. Normally, she would be at work and wouldn’t have received the message until evening, perhaps even a couple of days later when she would get around to checking her messages. But today she was home and she told the caller to send someone right over.

Further testing had to be done and, for that, blood would have to be drawn. “Let’s get started right away,” she said. “I don’t want that child and his parents to suffer a minute more than they have to.” The Registry staff was grateful that she didn’t ask to procrastinate and made arrangements for the blood to be drawn that very day so that testing can begin.

The phlebotomist continues the story. Continue reading Too Minor to Mention

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