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.
However, Ezer Mizion didn’t stop there. They arranged a drive. Quickly. The sand was running out. Finally a match was found. The staff rejoiced. Song was heard in every Ezer Mizion office. There was joy in the air. The Israel office contacted the New York office and held hands in a virtual dance across cyberspace. A match had been found for Naftali! He would celebrate his ninth birthday. He would grow up. And have his own children. Life wouldn’t stop at eight.
But it did. Naftali had needed the transplant when the request had been made. The wait, short as it was, was too much. Naftali will never turn nine. His seat in the classroom is empty. His classmates, too young to comprehend finality, keep looking at the door, waiting for him to come back.
With superhuman strength, Naftali’s father conveys his message to people everywhere:
I am addressing you, even though it is very hard for me, and in spite of the fact that for my beloved son it won’t help anymore. Perhaps it will help thousands of other children and adults who have cancer or who may, chas v’sholom, get cancer in the future. Maybe my words will help save their lives.
Ezer Mizion was at our side throughout our struggle with cancer. They made a tremendous effort to find a matching bone marrow donor to save my son. The story can end differently for other patients. But for that – we need everyone to rally to the cause. They need funding to pay for lab testing so that more and more people can join Ezer Mizion’s Bone Marrow Registry.
Ezer Mizion has facilitated over three thousand life-saving transplants, 342 in 2018 alone. May the registry continue to grow and increase the chances for each cancer patient to receive the transplant that will mean a future. L’chaim! To life!