What Was It Like?

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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.

“Everyone knows what getting through customs is like. Endless. After what seems to be hours (but was probably much less), I got impatient and asked someone how long it will be. ‘What are you here for?’ the staff member asked.

‘To donate stem cells through Ezer Mizion.’

‘Ohhhh. Come with me.’

I was given VIP treatment. In a matter of seconds, I – the “queen” –  was through.

When I got through customs, I immediately spotted some people from Ezer Mizion holding a big sign with my name on it. It felt so welcoming. I received the royal treatment. I was given a room at Ezer Mizion’s Oranit, such a beautiful room, usually meant for cancer patients and their families to use during the period of treatment to avoid exhausting travel.  Ezer Mizion bent over backwards to be sure I had what I needed.  When I wanted to go somewhere, Dr. Bracha Zisser, Director of Ezer Mizion’s Bone Marrow Registry, a person with never a second to spare, casually said to me, ‘Get in my car. I’ll just take you.’ as if she had nothing at all to do that day.

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Life saving stem cells

I received shots to increase my stem cells for four days before the Big Day. The first day I felt fine but as the days passed, I began to feel flu-like with some pain in the lower back. No big deal but uncomfortable. Then came Transplant Day. I had been nervous about it. Would it hurt? Would I feel sick? Would it take me a long time to recuperate? I was so surprised to see that I felt fine. I spent the time at Ezer Mizion’s new Harvesting Center in a very comfortable chair listening to music and talking to my sister. I shared the room with someone else who was also donating stem cells. We had a contest as to who would finish first. At twelve o’clock, they checked my cells. Were there enough? The results came in and I was done. Who won the contest? Me!

Being there made everything seem so real. There were so many people donating stem cells. So many sick people in need of a transplant. And so many still waiting for the genetic match that will save their life. So scary. What if…?

I saw families at Oranit. Little kids playing at an indoor playground. One little boy who won my heart. He was having a fantastic time at the Petting Zoo, teaching a mouse to successfully go through a maze. Such a sweet little boy. I pray he’ll be alright.

In another year or two, I hope to be able to meet the woman whose life I saved. It will be my blood that will be flowing through her veins.  I don’t think we’ll have to be introduced. I think we’ll just know.

Now I’m back at my desk. Everything seems so normal. I hope I’ll never forget what it felt like to be among those facing life-threatening diseases. I hope all of you will continue your generous donations so that the registry can grow, so that more people can be genetically tested, so that all of those waiting will have a matching stem cell donor like me to save their lives.”

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