Mike E. was three and a half. The age of zoom-zooming his trucks across the floor. But Mike wasn’t zoom-zooming. The most frequent sound he emitted was a pitiful whimper as, once again, he was subjected to the painful and frightening hospital procedures. Mike was born with CGD, a disease that damages the immune system. His life was in danger and only a stem cell transplant could help. Finding a donor whose DNA matched Mike’s was vital. With a matching donor, he could live. Without…
Mike was one of the fortunate ones. From approximately 900,000 potential donors at Ezer Mizion’s Bone Marrow Registry, Nimrod C. was that match. Mike is 5 and a half now and zoom-zooming with the best of them. Recently he and his mother, Anastasia, met Nimrod for the first time. Busy with his trucks, Mike couldn’t understand why his mother burst into tears as Nimrod entered the room. Both adults stood there in silence as the tears of joy flowed. “Because of you…because of you…” Anastasia cried out.
In recent times, a bone marrow transplant is not used too frequently. The most common procedure is a stem cell transplant, a much simpler procedure. There is no surgery involved for the donor, no pain, no recovery period. The stem cell transplant is not much more complicated than giving blood. Sometimes, however, due to the patient’s condition, a bone marrow transplant is necessary.
Mali Chen (21) was diagnosed at age three with a serious and rare blood disease called thalassemia major, a condition that impedes blood cell production. Throughout her childhood and adolescence, Mali required regular blood transfusions in order to survive, but, as a result of the frequent transfusions, she sustained serious medical damage. “They found that I had a surplus of iron in the body, which got worse and worse until it endangered my life. Ezer Mizion was contacted in the hopes that, being the largest Jewish registry, it would have a match for me.”
A match was indeed found. Omri ben Yakir was told that a young woman was in need of a transplant to save her life but, due to her condition, a stem cell transplant would not be an option. It was necessary to perform a bone marrow transplant which would require painful surgery to extract the marrow from his spine with a certain degree of risk. As his name indicates, Omri was indeed a ‘precious’ human being. “My family was a bit nervous but there was no question in my mind that I would do it. It was a somewhat painful and took awhile to recover,” he admits. “It was only after the meeting that I really understood the significance of what I’d done. Suddenly everything that had happened had a ‘face.’ In spite of the difficulty, I have absolutely no regrets about what I did. When I see her, I understand that it was all worth it. If they’d call me, I’d happily donate again.”
Omri and Mali had been students in schools near each other but had not known each other. When they met, Mali was rendered speechless. “What words are there in the dictionary to thank someone for saving your life?!”