One year. Two lives. Two members of the same family each saved a life by donating stem cells. Now they are waiting for their younger sister to be called to complete the circle.
Yael (23) was the first to donate. She was told that a man with leukemia needs a transplant. “It’s his only chance to survive and i am the only one in the world who can donate since I am a genetic match to him. Can you imagine how that made me feel?! What an opportunity! Most people can go through a lifetime without having such an opportunity. I was thrilled.
“Talya from Ezer Mizion walked me through the process and took care of every detail. Then came the day I was dreaming about – the day my cells would become part of a stranger whom I didn’t know but already felt close to. One day, completely unexpectedly – I was vacationing – Adi from Ezer Mizion sent me a letter from the recipient. There are no words to describe how I felt. It all became so much more real. ”Continue reading One Year. Two Lives.
It was an idea. A good idea. Would it end up by the wayside like so many other ideas?
It was the year 2005 and the Ezer Mizion Bone Marrow Registry was seven years old. The registry was growing and had saved many lives by means of a bone marrow transplant but, for too many, the response was No Genetic Match Found: a virtual death sentence. More registrants were needed. Registrants of varied ethnic groups. Young ones. Young cells have been proven to be much more successful and, in addition, the high cost of genetic testing would be offset by the potential donor remaining on the database for decades.
The IDF was the obvious choice but would they agree to offer each new recruit the option of signing up for the registry? There were many bureaucratic hurdles to overcome and the idea never would have seen the light of day without the help of MK Elazar Stern, then Director of Manpower in the IDF. His gargantuan efforts bore fruit and the momentous IDF-Ezer Mizion agreement was signed. Almost immediately the numbers began to skyrocket and, to date, 2,625 lives have been saved by those who registered upon recruitment.
Can you imagine, then, the grin of delight on the face of a registry staff member as she searched for a match for the latest request and came up with the name: Amichai Stern!
Amchai (26), son of Elezar Stern, lives in Belgium and the registry tried unsuccessfully to reach him. Timing is vital for a cancer patient and it was decided to call his father.
“I was in the Knesset when a call came in,” Elazar Stern recalls. “They asked if I was Amichai’s father. When I confirmed that I was, they gave me the basic information and asked if I wanted to contact him. Boy, did I! It was one of the most exciting calls of my life. Right then and there, I called my son and everyone in the office heard his excited ‘Wow!!! You mean I can save someone’s life?!!!!!!!!!’ He was thrilled and so am I, of course. It is a great privilege. It is a dream to be a match. A tremendous joy.”
Amichai is at the beginning of the process and, in his words, “I will do everything I can to ensure that this will work, even if it requires my returning to Israel. Life is a supreme value.”
We pray that the bone marrow transplant will go smoothly and the patient will receive the ultimate gift – the gift of a future. If they both agree, in a year’s time, they will meet. Amichai’s father will join the much anticipated event as will other family members of each side. Tears will flow. Hugs will be exchanged and the circle to save lives begun sixteen years ago will then be complete.
It was my birthday and I knew just what I wanted. When I was a little kid, I had some birthday requests that were so out of line that even i understood they were just dreams. Like the time I wanted a horse (We were living in an apartment building.) Now as an adult about to turn 40, my birthday dream seemed just as unattainable. What was it? : A gift of giving, It’s what Ezer Mizion calls a Personalized Donor Pool – a group of potential bone marrow registrants who stand ready to save the lives of cancer patients. My own group whose genetic testing I would be responsible for. Whenever one of them would be found to be a match for a cancer patient and donate his stem cells, I would receive a call with the electrifying words: You have saved a life. What a gift! Every month, I would read the list of names of those whose pools had saved one, sometimes two, lives and I’d think, “Why not me?!”
And so I began working on my birthday gift. I drove everyone crazy. There were hundreds of messages on my facebook page focusing only on this. My whole family was caught up. Even my kids were involved answering phones all night. It was a matter of raising a large sum of money and some of my friends teased me with comments like, ‘Dream on…’ but some of my friends responded more encouragingly and joined in to help me. And as the numbers climbed up, more and more changed their minds and decided to join what seemed to be a winning team. The final numbers (for this year- remember,I have another birthday coming up next year…):
728 people who donated a total of $40,000+ that sponsored 716 new registry members!
Recently our donor pool was launched. My husband and I came for a tour of Ezer Mizion’s cancer support facility in Petah Tikvah. We got home an hour ago and the tears don’t stop flowing. If I only could show all of you what this place looks like! It’s an entire world of chessed, What they do for the patients! To walk into the Registry and see a soldier who was found to be a match for a patient sitting there, waiting to donate, to give life to another human being. Many of them. All spending hours of their time just so someone they never met could have a future.Continue reading They Said It Will Never Happen
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.
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 Meir
To My Dear One
You don’t know me and I don’t know you, but that is what makes everything so much more amazing.
Some time ago, I received the most thrilling phone call, informing me that I was found to be a match for a stem cell donation to someone who needed my cells to live. I was beyond words, in the clouds.
Two years ago, I had received a similar call to save the life of a 23 year old man. But unfortunately, the patient weakened and he was in no condition to undergo the transplant. I had been devastated. “This cannot be!” I thought to myself.
To my great joy, I received another call and this time it was about you. Today, I had the opportunity to donate my stem cells to you. For this privilege, I am forever grateful!!!
Throughout this process, I didn’t stop thinking about you for a moment.
I thought all the time: How are you feeling? Are you happy that a matching donor was found for you? Are you optimistic, in spite of the great difficulty involved in such a daunting challenge?
When, occasionally, there was pain or fears at some stage of the process, I immediately thought of you and instantly knew that I had no right to complain, when it was you who are fighting for your life. It had been insanely important to me, and I stubbornly had insisted that they pass on to you and your family that you should not be worried about the donation; I was willing to donate, no matter what would be involved.
To everyone involved, I want to send you tons of “likes” for the ability to accept and deal with this, each in his own way, and to embrace me with a big hug from afar.
I intentionally chose to write to you by hand, so that you could become familiar with at least one personal aspect of me in this long and discreet process.
I pray and hope that my stem cells will be absorbed in your body in the best possible way and that, with G-d’s help, you should recover and regain your strength so that you will once more stand on your own two feet, raise your head, and, above all, be proud of yourself for emerging victorious, in a big way.
Your anonymous donor
The letter writer is just one of over three thousand caring Jews who cannot believe their good fortune to have been chosen to save a life. In a year or two, donor and patient will be permitted to meet. Can you imagine the joy as they embrace…brothers in blood, their souls entwined!
There are close to a million potential donors in Ezer Mizion’s International Bone Marrow Registry, the largest Jewish registry in the world. But even the largest is not large enough. Our goal is to expand so that virtually every request is met with the exhilarating words: Yes! We have a match!