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PAGE 12A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, DECEMBER 26, 2014 lS lIl Arik Rivka (1) with his donor ltzik ChogL By Chani Miller Ezer Mizion A few months after his marriage, young Arik was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease, a form of lymphoma, and his heart began to thrash with a confusion of feelings and thoughts. Together with his new wife, Naomi Rivka, they had built their nest and fostered hopes and dreams for a shared Torah home, for a flourishing family life... Indeed, not long before, they had learned that soon, with G-d's help, they would become parents. And now, suddenly--such a blow! But Arik and Naomi did not allow themselves to be con- sumed by despair. They turned to doctors and were relieved to hear that Hodgkin's is one of the forms of cancer with the highest chances of recovery. They did not delude them- selves that the journey ahead of them would be an easy one, but they prayed for Divine mercy and braced themselves for the many challenges await- ing them on the winding road that lay ahead. Weeks and months passed. Arik received a variety of chemotherapy treatments fol- lowed by a course of radiation, and his heart was full of hope that the whole thing would soon be behind him. The small hall where the crowd had gathered for the Bris of his firstborn was charged with emotion. "Ba- ruch atah.., she'hecheyanu... la'zeman hazeh--Blessed are You... for keeping us alive and maintaining us... to this time," the father of the baby recited with trembling voice, in a double entendre--a blessing both on the mitzvah of brit milah and on the life he received as a gift with the cancer's remission. The newborn infant never imagined that the fact that his loving, smiling father was embracing him warmly was not something to be taken for granted... 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An autologous bone marrow transplant--a transplant of the patient's own stem cells-- put the illness into remission, but soon enough, it became clear that this was no more than a temporary reprieve. "At this stage, we were told that our greatest hope would be to find a matching bone marrow donor for bone mar- row transplant, Arik relates. ',We turned to Rambam Hospital, and after a few days' wait that felt like an eternity, we were told that a matching donor had been located via Ezer Mizion's Registry, and not only that, but the donor was right here in Israel!" On Purim of 5769 (2009), on the day that is earmarked for "V'nahofuch hu"--turn- arounds, Arik's mazel turned around, and with G-d's help, he underwent the transplant successfully. "In keeping with protocol, we did not know the identity of the donor," he explains, "but we knew that thanks to him, we were given a new lease on life. My heart soared with a feeling of apprecia- tion towards this Jew. As an expression of gratitude for the Jewish sense of mutual responsibility that saved my life, my wife and I tried tO fill our lives with spiritual work. "In the summer of 5770 (2010), we were diginely blessed with a double gift twins, a boy and a girl. With deep emotion and endless ap- preciation, we gathered these marvelous gifts into our arms and our hearts harbored great hopes for the future." But then, yes, once again, theywere confrontedwith test results that indicated--the cancer had returned. This time too, Arik and Naomi did not lose hope. The very same anonymous donor gave another bone marrow donation. Success! Arik's tiny blessings will grow up with a father, withG-d's help. Saving a Jewish life On the other side, Itzik Cho- gi's story is no less fascinating. "Back then, when I joined Ezer Mizion's Bone Marrow Reg- istry, the procedure involved donating a sample of five ml. of blood," he recalls. "The process of giving the sample was short and sweet, but still, it remained engraved in my consciousness, and I did not forget it. The knowledge that I had the potential to save a life in such a simple way appeared to me like a minor miracle, and every time I thought about it, I got the chills all over again. "My father Yosef z"l passed away when I was seventeen years old. I know what it means to lose a father and what a personwould be willing to do so as not to lose a close family member. The findings of my blood sample were filed in Ezer Mizion's International Registry among tens of thou- sands of others, and I waited eagerly for a call that I was found to be a good match for a donation. "When I got the call from Ezer Mizion's Bone Marrow Registry informing me that I was found to be a suitable match to donate bone mar- row to a patient needing a transplant, I was gripped by emotion. "Can you imagine?" he shared his feelings. "Just a year and a half had passed since my father passed away, and here, I would have the chance to save a life in his memory! I did not know whom I was going to be donating to, but I already felt a deep personal connection to that unknown person, to whom G-d had connected me with such a remarkable blood bond." Itzik was told that a bone marrow donor must be iden- tical to the recipient in the tissue type characteristic known as "HLA proteins." Even though close family members have the highest chance of being an HLA match, in practice, only about 30% of patients manage to find a matching donor among their blood relatives. Due to the almost unlim- ited number of possible HLA combinations, the chances of finding a match between two people who are not related to each other are almost nil. These transplants are made possible only thanks to the existence of computerized international bone marrow registries, such as that of Ezer Mizion, which was the agent to find Itzik for Arik. With deep excitement and the knowledge that he was privileged to do something that not many people have the opportunity to do, Itzik began the donation procedure. For four days, he received injections to stimulate in- creased production of stem cells in his bone marrow and "inject" them into the periph- eral blood stream. On Thurs- day, he arrived at Schneider Medical Center to undergo the harvesting of his stem cells, a simple procedure similar to a routine blood donation: Blood was drawn from him through a needle inserted in a vein of one arm. The blood was sent through a special machine that separated out the young stem cells collecting them in a small plastic bag (300 cc.), and then, the rest of the blood was returned to his body via a needle inserted into a vein of the other arm. "I lay there for a few hours and underwent the donation process, without anesthesia, without pain, and without side effects," he reports. In practice, Itzik, like all other bone marrow donors, did not lose any blood at all; the young stem cells that were screened from his bloodstream replen- ished themselves quickly, within a day. "I came home very excited, praying that my stem cells that were transplanted into Bone Marrow Donor Registry the body of the anonymous was founded in 5758 (1998). As patientwouldbewellaccepted of now, the Registry includes and save his life." more than 700,000 potential Blood brothers donors and is the largest Was the transplant a suc- Jewish Bonel Marrow Donor cess? Did the recipient re- Registry in the world. The cover? Is he alive and well? Registry is conducted by the Itzik asked himself these professional and dedicated questions many times after hands of Dr. Bracha Zisser, the first donation, and many with the important help of more times after the second Ofra Konikoff, Chief Trans- transplant, plant Coordinator and Nira Who donated his bone Shriki, SearchandTransplant marrow to me, and then did Supervisor. Every year, Jewish so again a second time? Who cancer patients from around is the man to whom I owe my the world turn to the Registry life? Arik, on his part, asked with search requests. Up until himself time and again, now, more than 1600 life-sav- Many dramatic meetings ing bone marrow transplants take place in Ezer Mizion have taken place thanks to branches across the country, the Ezer Mizion Registry in when bone marrow trans- medical centers in Israeland plants arranged by the or- across the globe. ganization's intervention Use of bone marrow trans- are crowned with success, plants as a cure for various Emotions rise to a head at illnessesbegannearly40years the encounter of donor and ago. Since then, significant recipient, crossing all lines, improvements have been No one can remain unmoved made in this medical proce- upon seeing the meeting of dure and its application has two Jews who do not know become common and wide- each other, yet are joined by spread. Today, bone marrow a covenant of"biood touched transplants assist in treat- blood." ment of some 100 different All the terrifying moments diseases, including leukemia, of the illnesses, the night- lymphoma, other cancerous mares, and horrific scenarios diseases, malignantblooddis- of those days rise before their eases, auto-immune diseases, eyes, followed by memories and hereditary illnesses. of throbbing hopes cutting Most patients with these through the air and bearing conditions recover with the the promise of good news. help of chemotherapy and This time, the meeting radiation treatments. Never- took place in the presence theless, there are some cases of hundreds of teary-eyed inwhich, withoutabonemar- observers, at a dinner held in row transplant, the chances of Sivan 5773 (2013) on behalf of recovery are very slim. Ezer Mizion. On stage stood Likelihood of a match rises Arik Must who told his mov- significantly whenthe patient ing tale. When he finished, and the donor share a corn- the emcee of the hvening mon genetic background. For came over to him and gently generations, theJewishpeople asked, "Do you want to meet lived in closed communities, your donor?" preserving the genetic simi- "I am waiting for this for larityofits members. For this almost three years!" Arik reason, there is greater ge- replied, barely able to conceal netic similarity between two the emotion in his voice, unrelated Jews than between Without hesitation, the a Jew and a non-Jew. The in- emcee turned to the audience ternational registrystationed andinvitedItzikChogitostep in Holland lists more than up to the stage. 42 million potential donors, The moment Arikand Itzik but only a small percentage saw each other, they fell into of them are of Jewish ethnic each other's arms excitedly, background, and therefore, blinking back the tears that Jews have a poor chance of gleamedinthecornersoftheir finding a matching donor eyes. They paused to take a there. good look at each other, and EzerMizion's International then each embraced his dear Bone Marrow Donor Registry 'brother' once again. It was is annexed to the Interna- hard to saywhowas happier-- tional Registry in Holland and the donor or the recipient, has a reputation as a Registry But there is no doubt that that provides a speedy, effi- the entire audience was swept cient response. Everyyear, the up in the tremendous wave of Registry receives hundreds of emotion that could barely be search requests from trans- contained, plant centers throughout the Increasing the chances world. When a match is found, "This one benefits and the the bone marrow is delivered other does not lose."With this viaEzer Mizion toany destina- sentence, Dr. Bracha Zisser, tion necessary. directorofEzerMizion'sInter- "The Registry is a vital national Bone Marrow Donor infrastructure, a life-saving Registry and the Oranit Guest resource for hundreds of Jews House for Cancer Patients desperately in need of a bone and Cancer Patient Support marrow donation," says Dr. Services, sums up the essence Bracha Zisser, Director of the of a bone marrow donation, Registry. "About ten percent "Abone marrow donation is of cancer patients require a like a candle that illuminates bone marrow transplant at the soul of the next person some stage and none of us is without affecting the qual- immune to cancer. For this ity of the donor's life in any reason, the Registry is like an way, without his soul losing insurancepolicyforeveryJew, even the slightest bit. When no matter who and no matter you kindle one candle from where," she adds. another, the light merely in- Andofthiswepraytoalways tensifies. There is no greater be counted among the givers feeling in the world than andnotthetakers, thedonors knowing that a Jew is alive and not the recipients. today thanks to you."" For further information, EzerMizion'sInternational visit www.ezermizion.org