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.
“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!
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.
Hodaya’s wedding was to be in a few days. Her phone didn’t stop ringing. But this time it wasn’t a mazel tov call or even a call from the makeup lady. “I’m calling from Ezer Mizion Bone Marrow Registry. I have exciting news for you. (What could be more exciting than my wedding, Hodaya recalled wondering.) A 69 year old lady is in need of a transplant to save her life and you have been found to be a perfect genetic match. Are you willing to donate?”
“Yes! Yes!” she answered trying to make the mental leap from gowns and flowers to IV’s and syringes. “Yes! But can it wait a bit? I really want to do it but you see, I- I-I’m getting married in a few days and…”
“Mazel tov!” said the kindly voice on the phone. “Call me when you’re feeling up to it after the wedding.”
If Hodaya thought her head was awhirl before the call, it was now spinning out of control. What an opportunity! To save a life! She couldn’t wait to share the news with her husband-to-be. And so it was almost immediately after the wedding, during the week of sheva brochos (celebration week), accompanied by her new husband, she began the procedure that was to save the life of Ilana. Within one week, Hodaya began the creation of a new Jewish home and the re-creation of an elderly Jewish woman.
Yes, the stem cell transplant was a success and a year later, as per international regulations, they met for the very first time. Amid hugs and kisses, the two cried with Ilana pouring forth words of gratitude for the gift she had received from a bride.
This August, the Ezer Mizion Bone Marrow Registry reached an amazing milestone: 2,000 IDF soldiers have donated their stem cells to 2,000 patients around the world!
That’s 2000 Jewish lives saved, 2000 families who have remained whole!
These incredible heroes not only protect the State of Israel, but have also answered the call to save the lives of people from around the world whose sole chance of survival had been a stem cell transplant!
It is you, our invaluable friends and supporters, who have enabled Ezer Mizion to reach this milestone.
2019 monthly averages:
“ 33 transplants per month,
“ 5,096 new members join each month
Transplants have taken place in the following countries
Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Sweden, UK, USA
Transplants have been funded by donor pools of the following countries
Brazil, Israel, UK, USA
“Good morning. Is this Mr. Hyman? I’m calling from the bone marrow registry. You have been found to be a match for a cancer patient!”
I was sitting in my office when I received that call. I had been tested sometime around 1998 and had not thought about that day in years. Then, quite literally, out of the blue, I was asked if I would be willing to go through further testing to confirm that I was a match for “the patient.”
My response was simple: tell me what to do!! The caller from the registry went through some basic info and made sure to tell me that while the procedure for me as a potential stem cell donor, was safe, it was still my choice and “are you sure you want to go through this process?” Continue reading So You Got A Call To Be A Stem Cell Donor?
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
Ezer Mizion, the largest Jewish registry in the world, has recently celebrated a major milestone. Because of you, our good friends and supporters, we have passed the THREE-THOUSAND mark of transplants. That’s three thousand patients whose lives were saved! Three thousand families who remained whole! Three thousand grandmas and grandpas, Mommies and Daddies and so many tiny, frightened children traveled in one fateful moment from agony to joy, fueled by the electrifying words: We have a genetic match! Continue reading Because of You!!!
She played matching games when she was a child. True, she wanted very much to win but losing wasn’t the end of the world. Now she is thirty. And losing this ‘matching game’ would be the end of her world… the end of her life.
She had been experiencing strong back pains for several months. When the pain intensified, she visited her doctor. Tests revealed that she had lymphocytic leukemia. Radiation and chemotherapy were not enough. Due to the aggressive character of the illness, she would have to have a stem cell transplant asap. Within a few, short weeks! “We are in a race against time,” explained Dr. Itai Levy, head of the Hematology Department in Soroka Hospital.
Her name is Vorkanash. Continue reading Vorkanash