Yedi’ot, “24 Hour” supplement, by Reuven Weiss, Jan. 2014
For two years Zelda Katz had one, stubborn wish: to meet the donor who saved her life. Two years after she underwent a successful bone marrow transplant, Zelda was able to realize her dream on a particularly festive and symbolic day: her 73rd birthday. “The moment a year passed from the time of the transplant, I started nudging,” she related, as she waited for the long-anticipated meeting to begin. “I wanted so much to meet the young man and thank him, both I and my relatives, because we all received such a precious gift from him: Thanks to his donation, I am alive and they have a wife, mother, and grandmother.”
That is not the only item on the Katz family’s list of thank-you’s. The Angel of Death alighted on this Herzliya family’s doorstep twice. Three years ago, Zelda, a retired social worker, was diagnosed with lung cancer. While she was hospitalized in Tel Hashomer, four days before her lung lobectomy surgery, her grandson Ilai, then five years old, was diagnosed with leukemia and went into Schneider’s Children’s Hospital in Petach Tivkah to undergo treatments.
Katz had the operation, but the disease did not leave her be. Just a few months later, she too, like her young grandson, was diagnosed with leukemia. “The moment both of us were diagnosed with the same illness, I stopped worrying about myself,” she recalls. “I thought only about him. I lived seventy years already. But this child, my grandson, was just five! What did he have a chance to do in his lifetime?”
As the family attempted to digest the double blow, another one landed squarely on them: It appeared that the chemotherapy treatments would not do the trick, neither for the grandmother nor the grandson. Then began the real battle: a double race to find a compatible donor for a bone marrow transplant for each of them.
The first donor was found for Ilai, in Ezer Mizion’s International Bone Marrow Donor Registry. The transplant was successfully absorbed in his body on the first try. But Zelda was not so lucky: She underwent two transplants of her sister’s bone marrow, and they both failed. In the end, a matching non-family donor was found for her, too, and the transplant was a success. Ilai, today a charming, healthy eight-year-old, had a chance to meet his donor a year ago – Nofer Yuran (23), who has since remained in close contact with the family.
For Savta Zelda, it took a lot more time until the meeting could come about. A few days ago, in honor of her birthday, her family, together with the Ezer Mizion staff, decided to surprise her with the gift she looked forward to more than anything else. True, it was not exactly a surprise – due to her advanced age, they decided it would be better to prepare her in advance, but this did not diminish from the intensity of the emotional encounter one bit. “My stomach is turning somersaults,” Katz admitted as the meeting drew closer. “All I know is that he is a young man and that today he is a student. I once sent him a thank you letter via Ezer Mizion, but of course, they forbade me to mention any personal information.”
The entire family came to the moving meeting at the Oranit Convalescent Center in Petach Tikvah, including the grandson Ilai, who didn’t stop running around the place where he had spent long days as a cancer patient.
From the other side came the donor, who finally had a face and a name: Nadav Leizerovich, 25, from Shoham, along with his family.
Leizerovich, a management and industrial engineering student at the Beer Sheva University, gave his bone marrow sample at his induction to the IDF. He served in a select intelligence unit, and then, two years ago, during the final exams at the end of his first year at the university, he got the news that he was found to be a match for a donation. “I was very excited,” he relates, “and of course I immediately agreed.”
“Your son is 50 percent of our miracle,” Micky says to them. “Nofer, who was the donor for Ilai, was the first half, and Nadav, who gave the donation to Ima, completed the miracle for us.”