To the amazing people at Ezer Mizion and to all the generous friends from abroad who help support this wonderful organization!
We’ve known each other for quite a while. You met me for the first time two years ago, at the entrance to the Oncology Ward, just hours after I’d gotten the horrible results that brought the world crashing down on me, the moment that I went from being an active young Yeshiva man, involved in all the community affairs, to being an invalid, needing tons of help every day… The pains were intense, especially in my right leg, where the tumor had been found. But since I am a person who likes to be practical, I didn’t allow myself to cry even a minute. I immediately took my wife aside and told her: “We’re setting out on a battle for life, and we’re going to give it the best we can. This is our time to accept help, and we will accept help from anyone who’s willing to give it.” At that precise moment, you appeared in front of us and offered help in a variety of areas. We needed everything you offered: medical counsel, support, help with the children, hot meals, , hosting at your fantastic cancer patient hostel, the fun days and activities that you organized, and most of all empathy… For a long period, you were our closest family. Our children regarded you as “good uncles” and so did we. I cannot even imagine how we would have gotten through this time without you. Having you at our side gave us so much strength!!!
After a few series of chemo and radiation, the doctors came to the conclusion that the only option was a stem cell transplant. Again you were there at the front lines of the campaign to find a donor, and every time I was on the verge of despair, you came and gave me the strength to keep fighting. I am certain that it was your iron will and determination that stood before Hakadosh Baruch Hu (G-d) and pleaded that a stem cell donor should be found.
A year ago, I underwent the transplant. When I got the clean test results, I recited “Nishmas” (a prayer of gratitude toward our Creator) with tremendous emotion and promised Hashem that from this day on, my family and I are your partners, from the giving end.
When you asked me to come speak at some event you were making for donors, I willingly agreed. I came with my wife and told them everything I’d gone through as a patient and everything that you represent for me. I described how every shekel that comes into your hands turns into an act of chessed. Then the emcee asked me if I know the donor who gave me the stem cells. When I answered in the negative, he asked if I would be interested in meeting him. As I was still nodding my head, the tears filling my eyes, the emcee called my donor up to the podium. I cannot describe in mere words how I felt at that chilling moment. There are things you can understand only after you feel them. And I hope that you will never feel what I felt. From that second, the marvelous donor joined my family.
Words cannot express my gratitude for everything you’ve done for me
May Hashem repay you with health and nachas.
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
“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.
Lieutenant 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.
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
A young man sits in a chair for hours. He is attached to a machine that is filtering stem cells from his blood. It’s a comfortable chair and his every need is met. But there is a yearning within him that cannot be satisfied. Soon a little bag of his stem cells will be brought to a different floor where someone is waiting. He has never met that someone. He knows no more than the gender and age of the someone but he feels a deep connection. He knows the someone is feeling tremendous tension at this moment and he longs to reassure him and tell him that it is going fine and he will soon be receiving that little bag of life. He so much would want to be there at that moment when the bag arrives and life – his life – is transplanted into the someone. He wants to hold hands during the moments when they will be becoming blood brothers.
But he can’t. It’s not allowed. Something about international law. They will not be allowed to meet for at least a year. His yearning is strong. It must be satisfied at last partially. So he does the next best thing. He communicates. He writes a note.
How are you?
I’m A., from the bone marrow donation.
I thought that perhaps I’d tell you a little bit about myself, so we could begin to get acquainted with each other — only if you want to, of course.
I’m 24, married to R. and waiting, at this very time, for our first birth, G-d willing. I am studying at Yeshivat Ohr Etzion and my wife is a ninth grade homeroom teacher at the Ulpanah.
I served in the army in the paratroopers’ unit. It was in the army that what brought us together took place — the donation.
Let me tell you a bit of how it was on my part.
One Sunday, I got a call from Ezer Mizion, asking me to get back to them. Already then, I started getting excited: Maybe I was lucky enough to have been found to be a match for a donation?
Indeed, they informed me on the phone that an initial match was found between us for a donation. I felt as if I’d won the lottery, and even more; it was such a great privilege.
Of course, I did the entire process, which you probably are more familiar with than I am, and the whole thing is going smoothly and easily.
Wishing you robust health and much happiness!
There are many donations taking place in Ezer Mizion’s new state of the art Harvesting Center. Next door another note is being written.
I am sure that you have gone through tough things. First of all, I want you to know that you are a real hero! To fight this cursed illness and not to give up is not something that is self-understood.
I hope that the stem cell transplant will help you carry on an easy, free, and normal life. I hope that you recover as fast as possible and that you will be able to return to your family, children, and grandchildren (if you have any).
May you know only happiness, good health, joy, success, and, most important, optimism. Enjoy life and utilize it well, because who knows better than you do that we only have one life to live.
I hope that, one day, I’ll be able to meet you and get to know you.
With great love to you whom I have never met but already feel to be a brother ,
Hundreds of eyes were turned toward the sky. Waiting…for the ball to drop. Ezer Mizion’s Golf Tournament added a new feature to its annual event. The day had been glorious. The weather perfect. Now all players gathered to watch as a bucket truck-cherry picker lifted its bucket 200 feet above the green and dropped 701 golf balls that had been purchased by those participating in Ezer Mizion’s life saving mission. “Where would my ball drop? Would this be my chance to get a Hole in One?” “That was one of the coolest things I have ever seen at a golf tournament!” was heard from so many. Continue reading When Dropping the Ball Saves Lives
“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?