Friday, May 28, 2010

Every tiny drop...

Gift Of Life founder Jay Feinberg appeared earlier today on Nachum Segal's JM in the AM show to talk about the foundation, it's goals, successes (thank God; kein yirbu [may there be many more]), and hopes.

As I wrote earlier, they had a large presence at the Israel Day parade, and there will be another opportunity to register this week in the Five Towns and Far Rockaway.

Jay commented on the necessity for everyone to at least register; with the advent of new technology, the process is quick and painless, consisting of cheek swabs and filling out a form. If there's a match, the donation process is also less complicated than it used to be: there's a machine that pulls out the blood from the arm and extracts the blood stem cells, not unlike the way people donate platelets. It's comparatively less painful than the way they used to extract the marrow via the hip...

It's a big mitzvah; it's based on genetics, and that's one of the reason there is such a focus on getting folks from the greater Jewish community involved.

To strengthen the point about how important it is for everyone to get tested, Jay told the remarkable tale involving his own recovery from Leukemia. The story is on the foundation's website, but I'll post the specific excerpt here (emphasis mine):

Jay's story is one of transforming adversity into success. When he got sick, Jay was told that a transplant could save his life, but he would die needlessly because he would never find a matching donor. He quickly learned the reason why. A patient's best chance of finding a genetic match lies with those of similar ethnic background. Unfortunately, the worldwide registry was not representative of all ethnic groups, and Jay was Jewish. There was an urgent need to add diversity to the registry, and time was of the essence.

Jay's family and friends didn't want to see him die. They wanted him to have an equal opportunity to find a match. So they launched an ambitious grassroots donor recruitment campaign, resulting in the enrollment of tens of thousands of new donors in the worldwide registry. But after four years, and finding matches for so many other patients in need, there was still none for Jay.

That's when his miracle happened. A young man decided to run one last drive because his best friend had found a match through a drive held for Jay. He knew the odds were against him, but he was determined to return the gift. And that is exactly what he did.

Jay's four year search for a donor came to a close in May 1995. The very last donor - tested at that very last drive - turned out to be his miracle match! Jay received his transplant soon after at the world renowned Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle thanks to his miracle match, Becky, and a determined young man who wouldn't take no for an answer when he ran that very last drive!

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