Turnaround


Turnaround    by Yael Katzir

 

 “You probably don’t remember the thirteen year old boy with cancer that Ezer Mizion’s Bone Marrow Registry collected blood samples for. It was a few years ago… I remember him well.

I was 32 years old then. I worked as a producer. That day at work, they came around to collect samples for him. I registered with Ezer Mizion’s Bone Marrow Donor Registry as a potential donor.

I was thrilled to hear that I was found to be a match for a patient and was doing the pre-donation blood tests. ‘It’ll just take a short while. I’ll be back at work soon,’ I told my co-workers. It was a simple blood test done at a lab. You know the type. You close your eyes and pretend that someone is not jabbing a needle into your arm. You pretend that you’re not scared and try to be mature about it. It’s over in a moment and you go back to normal life. But I didn’t go back to normal life. As my mind was shifting back to work responsibilities, I was told, ‘Instead of donating your stem cells, you’d better see a doctor.’

I went to a doctor, who sent me straight to the hospital where I stayed for three days until the results came: ‘Yael, you have leukemia!’ In one moment, I turned from a potential donor about to save the life of another… into a recipient whose precious life-please G-d please- will hopefully be saved by an unknown donor.

At first I underwent aggressive chemotherapy treatments. When the treatments did not help and the doctors realized that my body was unable to produce healthy cells, they started searching all the registries for a compatible donor.

The race was on. Would a donor be found soon? On time? Before…? Interrupting my tear-filled prayers, the phone rang. “Yes!” said the jubilant voice on the other end.      “We have a donor! Here in Israel in Ezer Mizion’s Registry. It’s the largest Jewish registry in the world and the donor is one of the thousands who had just joined the registry and is your match!” He was slated just then to travel abroad for a long period of time. Because of the transplant, he put off his flight.

Three months elapsed from the time I took the simple blood test that revealed my leukemia until the transplant — three months that seemed to me an eternity! I was shattered and drained by the chemotherapy and I was on edge waiting for the matching stem cell donor to turn up…

I remember how my husband, my mother and I sat in the hospital room and laughed at the little bag of blood. There we were, waiting for a dramatic, life-saving “something”, and all of a sudden, the doctor walks in with this little bag of blood and says: ‘Here’s the donation’… At that moment, you can’t even absorb and understand what is really happening, certainly not to appreciate the meaning of that little bag.

We, my family and I, wanted very much to meet the donor and thank him, but it took time. Legally the donor and recipient cannot meet or know anything about one another for at least a year after the transplant. When the medical team sees that the transplant took and that there is no rejection, they contact the registry to ask the donor for his approval, and only then enable him to meet with the recipient.

About a year after the transplant, the brightest and most powerful moment in my life arrived — my encounter with the donor. It was a closure in a double sense: Giver becomes receiver… whose life was saved by… another giver.

The meeting took place in a conference room at Ezer Mizion’s Guest Home for Cancer Patients. I think there were a lot of people in the room. I myself was floating… I sat with my husband, my mother, nurses from the ward at Ichilov Hospital where I was treated, representatives from Ezer Mizion, and the donor. Words cannot describe this moment! It was too moving and powerful to convert into mere syllables.

I sat there and did not know what to think first. The fact that they allowed me to meet the donor proved that the transplant was well received. It worked! It was then that I realized that I am a kind of a survivor. ‘If I am allowed to meet my donor, it means that everything is all right… I’m healthy! I’ve recovered. I am really healthy!’

G-d, thank you! Thank you, thank you, and again — thank you! Thank you that the transplant worked, thank you for restoring me to life…! Thank you for sending me your agents to save me!

Thank you for Ezer Mizion that set up and runs this amazing registry. Thank you for planting compassion in the heart of my donor so that he would want to join the registry. Thank you for all the caring people who make this possible by financially supporting this great work.

About two and a half years ago, I had a baby boy. As soon as he was born, I knew what we would call him. We named him Uri – the name of the donor.

Every summer, I celebrate anew. I have two birthdays a year, and the more important of the two, at least to me, is my summer “birthday” — the date of the transplant. On that day, I was born again. I exchanged my entire immune system. With every year that goes by, I am overjoyed anew.

That’s it. That’s my story. For me — it changed my life.

If my moment can give you a new appreciation of the so-called “routine” moments in your everyday life, and move you to thank the Creator again and again for moments that you used to take for granted, then that one moment of thanks on your part for the blessed routine of your life makes the whole story of ‘my moment’ worthwhile.

To view the story of another family undergoing the same nightmare:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZKJJUDkEpg&lr=1&uid=qXcY6FaG8ud6-6rxAV7q6A

For further info: ezermizion.org

 

 

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