April 26, 2012
A bone marrow donor celebrates an extra birthday
When Jay Feinberg was diagnosed with leukemia in the early 90s, he was told that a needed bone marrow transplant would save his life. The search for his match through a donor recruitment campaign run by his friends and family paved the way for what we know as the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation. After finding matches for others in need and a dedicated four-year search, Jay’s miracle finally came in May 1995 thanks to Becky. Jay received his transplant at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and now, over 20 years later, saves lives on a daily basis.
The Gift of Life is one of North America’s public bone marrow, stem cell and umbilical cord registries. For many suffering from leukemia, lymphoma, other cancers, and genetic diseases, there is now hope for a cure through a transplant. That is, of course, if a match and donor can be found.
Because there is a greater chance of finding a donor with those of similar ethnic background, the small Jewish representation in the global registry made it hard for Jay to find his match in the 90s. The Gift of Life today has come to not only be the first registry whose goal is to add diversity to the donor pool, but to also start the practice of painless cheek swabs to test potential donors.
Every match found, hope given, life saved, and future generation that stems from a recipient is due to the ambition and being of Jay and his family. A quick cheek swab in May 2010 changed my life as well as the life of a 62-year-old man who, a year ago, was fighting for his life. I was notified as a potential match in January 2011 and after blood tests, my status was upgraded to a complete match. My thoughts were filled with fear of my power rather than fear of the needle. I held the power to deny life as easily as I could grant it along with hope to this stranger, his family, friends and community all rooting for his recovery. My decision was clear and after a complete physical and medical examination, the date for my bone marrow harvest was set.