DECEMBER 6, 2018 – For those diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, the best chance of finding a life-saving match is from a donor of similar race or ethnicity. This is what happened when young Idan Zablocki was diagnosed with a genetic disorder impacting his blood – Hyper IgM syndrome. It is an immune deficiency caused by a genetic mutation and patients have trouble fighting harmful bacteria and fungi, resulting in serious infections of the skin and lungs. The average life expectancy for patients with this disorder is just 24-years and the only known cure is a bone marrow donation. Idan received his life-saving donation through the Gift of Life Marrow Registry. His donor, Alex Weiss, was swabbed for the registry while on a Birthright trip.
Gift of Life is a non-profit bone marrow and blood stem cell registry that facilitates transplants for children and adults suffering from leukemia, lymphoma, other cancers and genetic diseases. The organization started 27 years ago when Jay Feinberg, CEO of Gift of Life, was diagnosed with leukemia. He was told by doctors that he would need to find a donor who had a similar ethnic background in order to have a chance at survival. However, the worldwide registry was severely low on donors of Ashkenazi descent, Jay’s own ethnicity. His family and friends launched an ambitious grassroots donor recruitment campaign, resulting in the enrollment of tens of thousands of new donors. His life-saving match was found, and the Gift of Life Marrow Registry was born. The organization has changed the odds for Jewish blood cancer patients, increasing the chance of finding a life-saving donor from 5 percent to approximately 82 percent today.
This Hanukkah, the Gift of Life Marrow Registry teamed up with actress Vanessa Bayer to spread the word that curing blood cancer starts with a simple swab of your cheek. The campaign, #SwabSameach, encourages people to wish their friends and family “Swab Sameach” instead of “Chag Sameach” by creating a special menorah and sharing it on their social channels to raise awareness that finding a match and a cure begins with one remarkable person and one life-changing swab at www.giftoflife.org/hanukkah.