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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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!”

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They’re Twins But

Two adorable twins. Too young to understand numbers and question why the ‘two’ doesn’t match their actual age. When they mature perhaps Mommy will explain that this was a party celebrating another birthday. It had been two years since Yarden. had received her life-saving bone marrow transplant. No family member was a genetic match and her parents had been forced to look elsewhere, somewhere, around the globe, for someone whose DNA matched their precious child.  We cannot imagine the tension, the fear, the prayers that filled their home until one morning, the phone rang. “I’m calling from Ezer Mizion Bone Marrow Registry. I have wonderful news…” Life hasn’t been easy for the twins. They were born together but have been apart for so much of their life what with Yarden in and out of hospitals. May they now spend the rest of their lives together, enjoying each other’s company in perfect health. 

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Scrolling Down the Inbox

inboxA delightful video appears in the Inbox of an Ezer Mizion staff member. A chubby one-year-old is giggling as he tries to ‘catch’ the ball. Mommy’s laughter joins his childish giggles. Hers is a laughter of joy, of gratitude, of wonder. At his birth there had been no laughter. At his birth there had only been shock, terror and an all-pervading sadness. In the body of the email are words of thanks to Ezer Mizion:  Thank you so much for all the help over the 2 months my wife was in the hospital with our baby (medical referrals, food, hot meals, snacks, hospital volunteers, transportation, emotional support, more food and hot meals, etc. etc. etc…..).

 

It is now almost a year since our Shlomo was born when all the doctors said there was a basically 0% chance that he was going to survive. As you can see, he is such a cute, amazing miracle. I just wanted to show you some of the results of your efforts. It is so special – all the support and help you give people in their difficult times.

 

The staff member scrolls down and there’s another one. This one is from Penina. She remembers Penina. One of her volunteers. Continue reading Scrolling Down the InboxFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

Flying High

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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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Real Lives…Real People…Real Families

RH19 interviews Ron Klein
G-d was certainly watching over me…

“It all started with a government contract in 2013 that required a complex background check, including detailed physical exam. I am the owner of commercial cleaning company”, says RK. “Of course, I wanted to dot every ‘i’ on this very lucrative deal. The physical was a bit of a problem since my doctor was not available. So I went to the sub who refused to fill out the form without an exam. I noticed the doctor becoming agitated as he listened to my heart. Well, there was good reason for his agitation.   It turned out that I had a heart condition that required open heart surgery. Pretty scary to think this never would have been discovered if I hadn’t received that contract.  Halfway through the post-surgery recovery period, I began feeling chest pains. My heart was checked and found to be fine but my blood was not. What’s going on, I thought to myself.  In April the blood work had been fine, now in July suddenly not? So there in the midst of recovering from open heart surgery, I was found to have AML. Isn’t there some rule about not hitting a guy when he’s down?   Later on, I was told that I probably had had leukemia for a while but it was held in check. The open heart surgery most likely caused it to develop and spread.

RH 19 interviews Ron Klein d
Without Ezer Mizion, this ultimate in joy never would have been

Only a stem cell transplant could save me. Thank G-d, Ezer Mizion found a match for me. The cells would be transported from Israel to my hospital in Chicago. Just one problem. There was a major snowstorm in Chicago at the time. If my cells didn’t get here within that small window of time, we’d have to start all over. You can imagine how much I prayed. Well, they made it and I’m fine now and hope to remain so for many years. After the transplant, my blood became AB positive, a type mosquitoes don’t like- a great side benefit. “

PG and his wife are two balls of energy, speaking in front of an audience of hundreds. It wasn’t long ago that there were no jokes, no smiles. P had visited his doctor regarding recurring sinus infections. They were easy to cure but the cancer that was discovered during the comprehensive physical was not. “I needed a bone marrow transplant to survive and things didn’t look good. Well, I have a new brother now. We met recently. It is Yoni’s blood that is now coursing through my veins. That makes him my blood brother, right? We’ve become very close even though he lives in Israel and I live in the US. We try to spend quality time with each other whenever possible. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him. After all, he gave me my life.”

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And Bring A Friend…

helping-hands w puzzle pieces
The perfect genetic match

“Please come into my office and…and bring a friend.” That was my doctor on the line with the results of the blood work. We had just had a baby and I, the father, felt so weak. With our first, I helped out a lot. With #2, I felt too weak to even hold the baby. Something seemed very wrong. And now I was about to find out what. “Bring a friend,” she had said. It sounded ominous.  And so there we sat, my friend and I, when, with tears in her eyes, my doctor said those words: You have leukemia.

How do I tell my wife? With a newborn at home. How do I tell my mother? My brother had recently battled a brain tumor…and lost. Now again?! Well, I was released from the hospital and went home, arriving very close to Shabbat. I felt that I couldn’t ruin my wife’s Shabbat so I kept quiet. After Shabbat, I told her. My wife and I cried together but we were determined.  We just had to find a way to move forward. We were not going to collapse. We were not going to give up. We’d fight. We’d do our part and G-d would do His.

It wasn’t easy. That very Sunday was my sister’s wedding. I simply couldn’t ruin the wedding for my sister, for my mother who was finally seemed happy after my brother’s death. So I told everyone that I had hurt my back. The truth was that I simply had no energy, the leukemia coursing through my body, sapping me of all my strength. On the last day of the week of wedding celebrations, I told my mother the news. It was so hard for her to accept. But a lifetime of faith in G-d came to fore as she internalized and helped me to internalize, “We are all in the hands of G-d”.

At the hospital, I missed my family terribly. One day my daughter came to visit me. But when she started coughing, she had to leave for fear that I would catch her cold.

I have to tell you, my wife is truly amazing. She gave me the best gift – a poster with pictures of my children. I just burst into tears at the sight of that simple but powerful gift.

Meanwhile, the hospital began swabbing my siblings for the bone marrow transplant. Two of my sisters were good matches but one had just given birth and the other was expecting.

pr bmr cell bagThen Ezer Mizion came into my life with a perfect match!!! It was incredible how fast Ezer Mizion worked. I received the round of chemo to completely destroy my immune system in preparation for the transplant. Some people lose their minds from this mega-dose of chemo. I decided to keep my focus by studying Talmud .

The day of my transplant, I woke up to find my room decorated with signs wishing me a happy birthday. My wife! Sure, it was an extremely scary day for us all, but it was also a day of celebration – I was getting my life back, being born again, my family was getting our lives back. What a powerful moment.

The transplant was a success and a month later I was released from the hospital, having finished the section of the Talmud I had chosen just 2 days before.

When I met my donor, he shared with me that the same month he donated his bone marrow, that very same month, his wife conceived. He gave a life and he got a life.

I want to thank him and Ezer Mizion’s Bone Marrow Registry who facilitated my transplant for not only saving my life, but for saving my entire family.

 

 

 

 

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Do You Have the Time to Save a Life?

pr bmr Harry - Ofek
Another life saved by Ezer Mizion’s Bone Marrow Registry

H.  was a cheerful, healthy 62 year old. Life was great and he expected things to continue that way. If yesterday was good, shouldn’t tomorrow be so also? We human beings are wired that way. We take good things for granted and are shocked when the wheel turns. That’s what happened to H. His idyllic life was over when…

Although friends had been telling him for a while that he looked pale, H. didn’t take it seriously until he heard the same thing again and again and again. ”Finally, I listened. I was tested at the hospital and discovered that my hemoglobin was half the normal rate, much lower than it should have been. More tests. More waiting. More worry. And then the answer. Severe leukemia.” Continue reading Do You Have the Time to Save a Life?Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

In Memory of Meir

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A genetic match will save a life!

Needles? Tubes? Oh, no! Not me! Yedidya has been frightened of anything sharper than a safety pin since childhood. But then he met Meir and began to realize that childish fears were just that – childish. They were overshadowed by more important things. Things like saving someone’s life.

pr bmr in Mem of Meir
Yedidya makes a difficult choice

Yedidya and Meir had met when they were children. His family spent three years in New York and their friendship flourished. So much so that, when Yedidya moved back to Israel, they remained in contact until they reached young adulthood. It was then that Yedidya received the news. Meir had leukemia and it didn’t look good. Within months, it was all over.   Yedidya was devastated. Can such a thing be? Such a young person no longer alive?? Continue reading In Memory of MeirFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

He Was Only Young Boy

DNA
Finding that matching DNA can save a life

It wasn’t easy. Acceptance never is. My children would grow up, marry. There would be grandchildren… And I wouldn’t be there. A small grandchild would have a part in the school Chanukah play. “Invite your grandmother, too,” her teacher would say.  My little granddaughter’s face would cloud up,” She’s in heaven.  She can’t come.”  Continue reading He Was Only Young BoyFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail