Posts Tagged ‘bone marrow replacement’

Father and Son: A Special Moment

February 9, 2018

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Every father knows the feeling of sharing a special moment with his son. With some, it may be a hole in one at the golf course. With others, the first time drive in the new family Lexus.  For the Katz family, their special moment was very special indeed. They each saved a life.

Itamar is 21 and had registered several years ago with Ezer Mizion’s Bone Marrow Registry. He never expected to actually be called but the call did come and Itamar rose to the occasion. Yes, he was nervous about the procedure but when he thought of what would happen if he refused, it was a no-brainer. “It wasn’t as bad as I envisioned. Somewhat draining but nothing in comparison to what I achieved. I actually saved the life of another Jew!” He was still riding high on the waves of his achievement when another call came on the family phone. “I’m calling from Ezer Mizion. Is Professor Gideon Katz available?” The professor was abroad at the time but things moved fast and contact was made. Back home again, he and his son would glance at each other. No words were necessary. Father and son would be sharing an experience that defies description.

 

Professor Katz is   head of the State of Israel Studies department at Ben Gurion University in Beersheva.  Gideon had registered with Ezer Mizion ten years ago during a recruitment drive at the university. His name was placed on the database and there he assumed it would remain… just one of the close to a million registrants that make up Ezer Mizion’s Bone Marrow Registry. A Jewish cancer patient had been told that her only chance to live is a transplant. If a genetic match could be found, she would be cured. If not, … That’s when the Registry database of 885,264 potential donors was searched.  Like a lottery machine, the computer stopped at the file of Professor Katz. Gideon was that DNA match. If he would agree, he could save her life. Not for one moment did he hesitate and so, for the first time in the history of Ezer Mizion’s Bone Marrow Registry, father and son each merited to save a Jewish life.

Bone marrow transplants are used as therapy for about 100 different illnesses, including leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, diseases of the blood, and enzyme deficiencies. These diseases destroy bone marrow, which contains the stem cells responsible for manufacturing blood cells. For people with diseased or damaged bone marrow, a transplant from a genetically compatible donor is often the only hope for recovery.

Transplant recipients must be nearly identical matches with their donors for tissue-type markers known as HLA proteins. Although close family members offer the best chance of an HLA match, only 30% of patients find matches within their families. Because the number of possible HLA combinations is incredibly vast, the likelihood of two unrelated individuals matching each other is very low. Bone marrow transplant from unrelated yet HLA-matched donors is possible due to the existence of large computerized international registries of potential bone marrow donors.

Chances for a match increase significantly if the patient and potential donor share the same ethnic background. Because Jews in the past lived in isolated communities, they are today more genetically related to each other than to non-Jews. There are over 10 million potential donors registered in the International Bone Marrow Registry (BMDW) based in Holland, but only a very small percentage are of Jewish descent.

Ezer Mizion established its registry in 1998 to increase the pool of Jewish potential donors. Israel, home to an entire spectrum of Jewish communities and ethnic backgrounds, is the natural location for a Jewish bone marrow registry.

Today, the Ezer Mizion Bone Marrow Donor Registry is the largest Jewish registry in the world. Because Jewish patients generally require Jewish bone marrow donors, the registry is a vital resource for thousands of sick Jews and serves an insurance policy for worldwide Jewry.

 

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Cancer on Its Way Out! Happy Two-Year Birthday to Me!

June 28, 2017

Numbers are funny things. They look nice and neat, march in straight rows. They create groups (3 of these and 5 of those) and somehow make us feel that everything is under control. Until one personally finds herself in one of those groups – the wrong one.  The one that people don’t like to mention. You know,   the C word.  Cancer.

That was me. The C monster opened its mouth and grabbed me right before my trip to South America. I had been planning it for months but it wasn’t going to be. I gave myself a compensation prize of some amazing tours in different countries but in between, I toured hospitals.

When cancer ruined my plans…

It was on the big trip to New Zealand, exactly a year ago. Right in the middle of a fantastic trek, when, dressed in a sunhat and attempting to conquer some mountain, I fell apart. I could barely do the last part of the trail, because my body started to weaken. They started doing all kinds of tests. It seemed that my liver, lungs, mouth, nose, skin were all affected but I was still going. The Ezer Mizion staff was there with me every step of the way, holding my hand, offering professional advice and helping out in countless practical ways. I started taking steroids and began to look like a balloon, and then things calmed down a little.

When Cancer brought me to the Emergency Room

But not for long. One day, I felt really strong pains in my leg, like I’d never felt before. We went directly to the Emergency Room to check out what it was. It turned out that… I’d broken my hip. Yes, it sounds strange, but it had broken, without my falling, without anything. They explained to me that this is one of the side effects of steroids. Those numbers again. I was “privileged” to be one of the “lucky few” for whom steroids cause fractures. Since then, there were a few other breaks in places that you can’t put a cast on. If I were a car, you would just replace those parts. But, guess what, I’m not a car. My body is not built for new replacement parts. It prefers to keep the ones it has.  So now, I can’t run, dance, walk, hike, and some other things like I used to…

The cancer did not stop me from living, though. I switched from hiking to taking some courses that I had always dreamed of.  It also brought many new things into my life, some good ones like meeting the unbelievably caring people at Ezer Mizion and some not so good like blood radiations that I had to do every two weeks and million new pills of all colors and sizes that decorated my kitchen counter.

Cancer Cancelled

But not forever. I’m celebrating a birthday this month. It’s the two-year birthday of my replacement. I did get a replacement of sorts. A bone marrow replacement. My friends at Ezer Mizion set it up for me.  They had to find a DNA match. I was very lucky, they said. From the over 856,000 people on their database, there was one match. His name is E. and he was happy to donate his marrow. Even though he didn’t even know me. I’m on my way to full recovery now.

So, happy two-year birthday to my body! Some birthday wishes…

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Happy Birthday to the End of Cancer

I wish me that I should soon stop going to hospitals, taking pills, and getting stabbed with needles.

That I should continue growing and flourishing in my new career (remember those courses?).

That I should soon have the strength to begin paying back and joining the thousands of Ezer Mizion volunteers in helping others like me.

Thank you, E. for donating bone marrow to me without even knowing me!!! You are a part of me now, whether you like it or not…