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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Never Give Up Hope

seeds-of-life hope
Never give up hope

“My two sons are adults but they took it real hard. I think they were afraid they were going to lose their father.” A.S. recalls those horrific days when he learned that he would be battling cancer for the second time. “My wife is a librarian. She did what comes naturally to her and researched the disease. And panicked. There were so many possible outcomes and a lot of them …not good. But she was there at my side, terror and all. Continue reading Never Give Up Hope

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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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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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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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So You Got A Call To Be A Stem Cell Donor?

Ryan Hyman - Photo
Ezer Mizion’s Director of Development: an ‘almost match’

“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?

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Keep Running

pr canc sup Harel  - Keep Running  father and may9or of Petach Tikva-
Joy and chemo working in tandem in the battle for life

“His face lit up” – a phrase so often found in stories of someone who received something he never expected. What does it mean? How does a face light up? Surely it is the spirit inside him that is generating the electricity.

If that is the case, then joy would be the prescription to raise the spirits of those demoralized by serious illness. Rx: fun. Happiness and chemo working in tandem. Body and spirit together engaged in the battle for life.

Ezer Mizion’s Cancer Support Division incorporates this truism into its Battle Plan with fun days for mothers, trips for kids, birthday parties, make-a-wish outings and so much more.

Harel was a case-in-point. Close to his father, the two enjoyed doing things together. One of his father’s favorites was running. Feeling the wind, the rush of adrenalin, the flush of reaching the finish line. Pure joy. And sharing it together was the icing on the cake.

The Annual Petach Tikva Run was scheduled.  His father was one of the first sign up. But this time, there’d be no young son beside him, sharing the elation. Harel longed to be there. Oh, how he longed to be there. But a monster had taken over his life in the form of an illness, curable only with a bone marrow transplant.  The transplant had taken place recently and Harel was beginning to mend. But running? Out of the question!

Out of the question but feelings don’t ask questions. They just feel. And Harel was feeling miserable. An emotion not very conducive to strengthening his body.

pr canc sup Harel - Keep Running b crossing finish line
We’re cheering you on! Keep running!

Enter Yumi, one of the most beloved members of the Cancer Support team. Yumi never sees ‘no’. He just sees ‘how’. How can it be made possible for Harel to join the race together with his father? Nothing is simple when it comes to a transplant. But Yumi is used to that. He met with Harel’s father. Tossed out possible plans. Brought the plans to a meeting with physicians. Changed, refined, re-did. Met with the race organizers. Back to the physicians. And soon. There it was. A real plan. One that he hoped would work.

The day arrived and there is Yumi. As excited as Harel and his father. Video camera on hand, recording every moment. Cheering, cheering, cheering!  The lanes are filled with runners. And there is Harel’s father also running, pushing a wheelchair in front of him. Grinning behind his face mask sits Harel absorbing the excitement in the air. They’re almost there. The finish line is in sight. They stop and Harel exits the wheelchair, stands behind it and begins to push. The wheelchair supports him. His father’s   shouts support him. And Yumi’s continued cheering supports him. There he is crossing the finish line with the rest of them.  Way to go, Harel!

Keep running, young man. Keep running until you reach the finish line, until you reach perfect health and can do all the things you long to do. We’re all behind you, cheering you on, Harel.   Keep running!

https://www.facebook.com/EzerM/videos/2252697554810334/

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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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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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