Four were waiting. Waiting for the genetic match to save their lives. One could wait no longer. And now there are three.
On May 31, Ezer Mizion, the world’s largest Jewish bone marrow registry, held a drive in Israel. Hopefully, the new registrants will genetically match the dozens of Jewish cancer patients whose sole chance of survival is a bone marrow transplant.
Ezer Mizion, the largest Jewish registry in the world, is not large enough. It is essential that it grow from its current 600,000 so that a match will be available at the optimum time for success.
In addition, unfortunately, some Jewish ethnicities are extremely under-represented among the current registrants. This significantly hampers efforts to find compatible donors for cancer patients from these communities. The drive targeted those under-represented ethnic groups so that patients currently in need will find a genetic match and, in addition, the registry will be enriched, enabling others, for decades to come, to receive the life-saving transplant in a timely manner before it’s too late.
Over 20,000 members of the Bukharan, Georgian, Yemenite, Kurdish, Caucasian and Iraqi communities joined the Registry at close to one hundred stations fanned out across the country. The cheek swab samples that were collected have been sent to labs for genetic tissue typing. Within a few weeks, the results will show which of the dozens of patients awaiting a matching stem cell donor will be able to undergo an urgently needed bone marrow transplant.
Four Jews of varied under-represented ethnicities represented all those that were waiting: Chanit, a young mother of Teimani descent, Nissim, a Bucharian Jew and father of two, Bar, a twenty-two year old Iraqi university student, and Yosef a Georgian father of two.
Today, on the day of the drive, Yosef’s condition worsened and he passed away at the age of 54. For the past eight months, Karchili had fought his illness with great courage. He had been very hopeful – together with his family, medical team and all of us at Ezer Mizion – that a bone marrow donor would be found to save his life. Dr. Bracha Zisser, director of Ezer Mizion’s International Bone Marrow Donor Registry: “We are shocked by the powerful message of Yosef’s death on the day of the drive. I had a chance to get to know Yosef over the course of the last several months. He was a courageous person, who lusted for life. Sadly, time ran out and we did not have the chance to help. His death emphasizes the urgency of enlarging the registry so that a match is available at the time of request. A cancer patient cannot wait.
One month later it has been determined that from among the twenty thousand people who joined the registry at the donor recruitment drive, there was one who is a perfect match for Karchili. If only the funding for this drive had been available earlier…if only this registrant had been on the database when the request for a transplant for Yosef had come in… if only the transplant would have been done in time, Karchili could have been alive today.
Ironically, the match is someone who works in the same building where Karchili was employed!
Now there are three waiting. Will a match be found on time?