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Giving the Gift of Life

He signed up for the bone marrow registry -- and then he got a call and learned he was a match

It is not often that with the exception of one’s own child that you can say that you have given the gift of life. But last week, I was afforded just that opportunity.

And while I don’t yet know what the future will hold, I am filled with a sense of tremendous emotion, pride and hope.

Let’s back up a few years when I gave a genetic sample to be included on the bone marrow registry of Ezer Mitzion. Like the thousands of people who join the registry, my thoughts were that it would be unlikely that I would ever be a match for someone in need. But wouldn’t it be nice if I could help save a life.

And like most on the registry, I returned to my daily life and put the thought of being a match towards the back of my mind.

A few weeks ago, I got the call.

Could I come in for some additional tests? You may be a match…

My emotions were a combination of hope that it would all work out mixed with some level of anxiety if it did. I knew that the risks were minimal to me but there would be some pain involved and whenever subjecting oneself to a medical procedure there was always some element of danger.

But I was more encouraged by the fact that there was a patient somewhere who was counting on me. So hope slowly began to win out over fear.

The next step was to go into Schneider’s Children’s Hospital for additional tests. Standing there amongst sick children and their families, I had an immediate appreciation for all the good that we have in our lives.

This series of tests was intended  to see if indeed I was a match.

And in fact I was.

While patient privacy requires that at least at this phase it is a double-blind process where neither the donor nor the recipient is informed of the other’s identity, I was allowed a few details about the life that I could be saving.

The patient was a two and a half year old child for whom my bone marrow could be the path to recovery.

As soon as I heard that it was a small child, my mind became preoccupied with a conversation which I imagined was going on in a home somewhere in Israel.

The phone rang and the father of the small child answered. A hope-filled look came over his face when he heard the caller was from Ezer Mitzion. He urged his wife over as they both heard the words “We have a match.”

I imagined the tears flowing down their faces as I remembered with pride that it would be my bone marrow that was giving them that happiness.

That image and conversation is what carried me over the past few weeks as we grew closer to the time for the donation.

For me the process would be relatively simple. A few shots to prepare my body for the material to be extracted and then the extraction itself.

Indeed, it turned out not to be overly painful. And any pain I did have, I reminded myself how little it was in relation to a tiny child who lived with constant illness and the recognition that life could end in such a short amount of time. I was also emotionally encouraged by the fact that the procedure itself took place on my youngest son’s 4th birthday.

The process is now behind me and I am essentially in a holding pattern.

A child somewhere in Israel is now living with a part of me inside their small body. It will be some time before we know whether it was a success.

The experience has been a truly rewarding one because it’s reminded me of just how much is in God’s hand in life but that He still gives us the chance to make an impact on His world.

When I close my eyes now, I try to imagine that child and I hope with all my heart that he is smiling and growing stronger.

About the Author
Yakov Gaon serves as the Executive Vice President of Tzohar responsible for the development and foreign affairs for the organization. He previously served as a hi-tech executive. He lives in Shaalavim with his wife and children.