At his bris (circumcision), they named him Imri. He was blessed that his parents merit bringing him to the chupah (wedding canopy), a simple, often –taken-for-granted blessing. At the time, it seemed simple. Now they are not so sure. In fact, they are not certain that his mother will enjoy the deep satisfaction of bringing her little boy even to first grade. You see, two-year-old Imri was diagnosed at two months with DBA, a rare disease which does not allow him to manufacture blood cells. He has no clotting system or immune system. When his mother brought him to the ER, the nurse immediately snatched him away and rushed him to the trauma unit. His hemoglobin was 2.5, the level of someone who has passed away. In addition, he has recently developed MDS, a rare blood disease for children which often develops into leukemia. The unfathomable has become all too real for this family. Imri Chai may not live past toddlerhood. Continue reading Let’s Keep on Trying
She was sitting in front of the computer at the Ezer Mizion office. Very busy as usual. All around her were co-workers engaged in varied aspects of raising funds to facilitate bone marrow transplants. At times she even heard snatches of a co-worker’s conversation with a donor who had merited to save the life of a young mother or perhaps that of a tiny toddler. Saving lives was the order of the day. Behind the standard office banter was the seriousness of what we accomplish. She felt good. She knew that her work was important, one cog in the wheel of making sure that a cancer patient in need of a transplant received his chance to live. It was gratifying work. She couldn’t ask for more satisfaction in a job.
Until one day when an enormous bundle of satisfaction landed right in her lap. She had been too busy to pick up a call on her cell and so the caller left a message on her voice mail. Hours later she checked it. “What’s this??? It must be a mistake.” But it wasn’t a mistake. She was being called by the Ezer Mizion office in Israel, not on the office phone but on her cell phone, not for the usual request of a report on something-or-other or the phone number of somebody-or-other but for her personally. Why? Because she, a girl who processes data, line after line, so that a life-saving transplant can take place, she herself may be able to save a life. She was found to be a possible match for a 65 year old woman with AML.
The office erupted in excitement. One of us is a match! Further testing had to be done. It meant a blood draw. Our phlebotomist was called in and he also joined in the office elation. Each tube was carefully wrapped and shipped to Israel where the final testing would be done. Now we waited. Each day began with, “Have you heard anything? Any update?” And one day there was. Positive. She was a perfect genetic match. Like the people whose statistics are listed on the brochures she sends out. Like the people she has seen on the organization’s videos. She, she herself, would be traveling to Israel. She would be spending hours at Ezer Mizion’s new Harvesting Center with staff members seeing to her every need so that she can be perfectly comfortable. She would be the heroine of the day. She would save a life.
“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.
Then 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.
BONE MARROW DONOR REGISTRY ACTIVITY SUMMARY
38 transplants, 31 from donor pools
3,138 total transplants (of these, 1,885 from IDF soldiers)
968,490 members in registry (of these, 532,358 from IDF soldiers)
Austria, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Spain, USA
Donor Pool Countries
Brazil, Canada, Israel, UK, USA
H. was a cheerful, healthy 62 year old. Life was great and he expected things to continue that way. If yesterday was good, shouldn’t tomorrow be so also? We human beings are wired that way. We take good things for granted and are shocked when the wheel turns. That’s what happened to H. His idyllic life was over when…
Although friends had been telling him for a while that he looked pale, H. didn’t take it seriously until he heard the same thing again and again and again. ”Finally, I listened. I was tested at the hospital and discovered that my hemoglobin was half the normal rate, much lower than it should have been. More tests. More waiting. More worry. And then the answer. Severe leukemia.” Continue reading Do You Have the Time to Save a Life?
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
It wasn’t easy. Acceptance never is. My children would grow up, marry. There would be grandchildren… And I wouldn’t be there. A small grandchild would have a part in the school Chanukah play. “Invite your grandmother, too,” her teacher would say. My little granddaughter’s face would cloud up,” She’s in heaven. She can’t come.” Continue reading He Was Only Young Boy
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!
To my dear stem cell recipient,
I was so happy when I received the call informing me that I was a match for a stem cell donation!
In the course of the process, which extended over about three weeks, there were ups and downs and quite a few fears and anxieties.
But in the end, I was determined to carry it out.
Now, a moment after finishing donating my stem cells, I feel relieved.
All that remains is to hope and pray that my donation will be of benefit to you and bring to your recovery.
From the bottom of my heart, I wish you a quick recovery and robust health, in the hope that you will soon resume routine life with the people you love.
I am so thrilled to be able to help!
BONE MARROW DONOR REGISTRY ACTIVITY SUMMARY
This is a record! 39 transplants in one month!!
33 of these from donor pools – also a record!
3,100 total transplants
965,423 members in registry
France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Spain, Turkey, USA
Donor Pool Countries
Brazil, Canada, Israel, Mexico, UK, USA Continue reading Because of You!