Flying 35,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean is not an easy job! Ofer had already spent 17 years as a fighter pilot in the IDF. In 2003 he left the reserves and joined El-Al full time. “Most people don’t realize that being a pilot is a very dangerous profession. When you know it is dangerous, you are safe but when you think it is easy, when you’re a cowboy, you are unsafe! A pilot’s job is to always be alert in case something happens.” Ofer always remained alert with hundreds of travelers under his wing, quite literally! Continue reading Flying High
“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.
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.”
“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.
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
Nissan sat opposite his doctor, his fists clenched in tension. Read on as he tells his story.
“I don’t want to sugar coat it. You have leukemia and it doesn’t look good.”
“These were not the words I was hoping to hear. The hardest part was informing our entire family.
After two rounds of chemotherapy, I was told to contact my brothers and sisters immediately as I needed a bone marrow transplant. “I don’t have a brother or sister,” I whispered in a barely audible voice. “I’m an only child.” Continue reading Your Friend in the Sky
“Don’t be silly,” said his wife.” Just because your friend has leukemia, doesn’t mean you do.”
“You’re being absurd,” said his neighbor. “Soon you’ll think that every sneeze is leukemia.”
Alex had been feeling very weak and just made an appointment to see his doctor.
“What you need is a good vacation, not an exhausting two-hour wait in a doctor’s office,” said his daughter.
Alex hoped they were right. He was only 53. But he had a feeling…Sometimes you just know… Continue reading You’ll Always Be My Hero
Ezer Mizion, the largest Jewish registry in the world, has recently celebrated a major milestone. Because of you, our good friends and supporters, we have passed the THREE-THOUSAND mark of transplants. That’s three thousand patients whose lives were saved! Three thousand families who remained whole! Three thousand grandmas and grandpas, Mommies and Daddies and so many tiny, frightened children traveled in one fateful moment from agony to joy, fueled by the electrifying words: We have a genetic match! Continue reading Because of You!!!
We speak of it as being a ‘battle with cancer’. Like all battles, it requires an army, each division with its special task, each soldier with a mission to which he devotes his heart and soul. Each ‘soldier’s very being becomes linked to those he helps. Help comes in many different forms. Therapy, living quarters near the clinic, meals, rides. The list goes on and on. This is no 9-5 job where work-related info disappears from the employee or volunteer’s radar as he exits the office.
Shopping for his family at the supermarket, Avi, an Ezer Mizion Linked to Life volunteer, spots a candy bar that little Yossi likes and, with an unmanly sob, he adds it to his cart. (Yossi’s Mommy used to buy him that candy every Sabbath but now Yossi’s Mommy is …) His phone rings and the shopping cart gets shoved into a corner. The store manager will understand. It’s happened before. His wife will surely understand. She had been tearfully praying when he left the house. It’s Moshe. He needs a ride to the hospital. Now. They just called. His wife has only hours to live. He knew it was coming but when it does…oh, it’s so hard. He will be needed for much more than the ride. He and his fellow Linked 2 Life members had supported the family in so many ways for months. “Hashem, give him strength,” he fervently prays as he rushes to his car.
Many weeks are filled with joy like when a child wins his battle with leukemia and L2L members drive the family and accumulated paraphernalia home from the hospital. Soon the child will join his friends in their games, a boy like any other boy. A celebratory parade as they enter the home, each one carrying packages, almost dancing up the stairs. Or when we’re invited to a bris by a young father who had been afraid his baby would be named after him. He’s cured now. The nightmare is over.
Other weeks are not so. Like this past one. Ora died this week. She had been part of the lives of so many Linked to Life volunteers in Rechasim and Haifa. Her conversation was never about her pain, her anguish. It was only about how grateful she was to each person for everything done for her family.
“Mere words cannot express my thanks to you for all your help and support. Hashem, in His great compassion and immeasurable love sent me such special agents as yourselves. I bless you all from the bottom of my heart that Hashem should repay you in kind, grant you health, happiness, and success in all your endeavors and nachat from the children. May good and kindness pursue you your entire lives.”
These words were written to Ezer Mizion just a few months ago by Ora a”h.
We rallied. We tried to smooth the way for them, do the little extras to bring some sunshine into their numbered days together. The medical staff fought hard. We fought hard to keep up their spirits. And we lost. Ora is gone. Ezer Mizion will be there for the family, with the practical, with the emotional as long as we’re needed. We’ll be their cushion, their pillar.
It was a hard week. There was a family at Ezer Mizion’s Summer Camp whose mother spent the time in bed on pain killers, under the supervision of medical staff, coming out for meals and some low-key activities. How gratifying to have been the catalyst for fortifying the family as they shared an enjoyable time together… their last. A day before camp ended, the mother was hospitalized. The children stayed on to finish camp. Ezer Mizion was with the children when they were told the bitter news of their mother’s demise. The younger ones hugged each other in a bundle of grief and said: “Ezer Mizion will help Abba and us. They never leave us to be alone!”
It was a hard week. A single mother of young children. Another young mother. And a sixteen year old boy with a brain tumor. Four young mothers and one young boy in one week.
Hashem, please give all of us at Ezer Mizion strength to be their strength. And Hashem, please hold them tight in Your embrace. Hug them. Comfort them. And wipe away all their tears.