What if You are The One? Swab a Cheek. Save a Life.

Swabacheek_logo_finalR_loOn Rosh Hashanah it is inscribed, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed.
How many shall pass away and how many shall be born, who shall live and who shall die.

Maybe it’s just me, but every year when I read those words my vision blurs. I know we are meant to consider our own life hanging in the balance. We are supposed to wake up and reflect on how we live and commit to t’shuvah, to returning to our best selves.  I do that. Eventually. But first I think about the lives I could possibly save. Maybe it’s because I’ve watched a little too much Buffy or maybe it’s because I’m drawn to the part in Vayeira when Abraham and God chat about whether or not Sodom and Gomorrah could be spared destruction if only there were 50 . . . 45 . . . 40 . . . 30 . . . 20 . . . 10. I read those words, “who shall live and who shall die” and I think, “but what if, God . . . what if?”

What if I don’t text and drive so that no one is killed in an accident I cause? What if I remember more often to donate food or bring someone a meal? What if I cough into my elbow and not my hand, wash my hands at least 20 seconds, get vaccinated, and stay home when I’m sick so people with compromised immune systems have a better chance of staying healthy? What if I support organizations like Avenues for Homeless Youth so teens experiencing homelessness have a safe place to sleep and teens who identify as LGBTQ+ have a place to feel safe? What if I support NAMI – the National Alliance on Mental Illness, talk about mental health and suicide prevention? God, while you are inscribing and sealing for life, maybe could you add a few more if I promise to do my part?

On the one hand, I don’t really believe it’s in my power to make a deal with God about life and death.

On the other hand I have reason to know we each have the power to help save a life.

I have the year when people’s donations to the Leukemia and Lymphoma and American Cancer Societies led to research that meant a relatively quick test and diagnosis when I had Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML). I have the year when I received over 36 blood transfusions from blood donated by people at local drives. I have the year and the month and the day, May 12, 2011, when I needed a bone marrow transplant to have a chance to again be inscribed in the book of life and I matched with one person, an unrelated donor, a German man who is now 35, who was on the international donor registry.

In my life, I have had the years when there were many more than 50 people, when there were more than 36, when there was one.

I have had times when my friends joined the registry because “everyone is someone’s Amy.”

What if this year you are the one – for someone? What if you joined? What if you joined on Yom Kippur?

Mount Zion Temple is partnering with Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation – a cooperative registry with Be the Match – and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and over 72 congregations around the country in hosting a bone marrow/peripheral stem cell donor recruitment drive on Yom Kippur, Saturday October 4th at 1300 Summit Ave Saint Paul, MN 55105 from 8:00am-6:30pm.

Registration at the Yom Kippur drive is FREE. Drive organizers recommend you read through the medical guidelines to make sure you qualify. It takes about 15 minutes for a cheek swab, consent form, and the commitment to saying “yes” if you are called to be a match. Potential donors are between 18 and 60. A confidential health history is necessary, so writing is required.  If you prefer not to write on Yom Kippur, please contact volunteer Sally Glick to get the forms in advance. Click here for more info on the Mount Zion drive. For more information about the process of donation or if registering in person on Yom Kippur does not work for you, Be the Match has fabulous information. You can also register online (Free 18-44) and Be the Match will send you a swab kit in the mail.

Like me, for many people with leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell anemia, and many other diseases, a bone marrow or stem cell transplant may be the only chance for a cure. I was lucky to match with a donor in his 30s. Donors between 18-44 years old are called as a match 90% of the time because research has shown that age range provides the best chance for a good outcome for patients. I don’t know much about my donor, but I do know he was healthy when he donated because of the screening process to make sure donors can donate safely. He didn’t pay any travel or medical costs; donor costs are covered by the patient’s insurance or registry organizations.

What if you can’t join the registry this year? Gift of Life, Be the Match, and other organizations rely on financial support. It costs about $100 for the organization to process each new member on the registry.

If you are called to be a match, you will be asked to donate in one of two ways. My donor gave some of his bone marrow. Bone marrow donation is a surgical procedure that takes place in a hospital operating room under anesthesia. Other donors give peripheral stem cells by prepping with medication for five days to increase the number of blood cells in their body and then on the day of donation blood is removed from one arm and passes through a machine to separate out the blood-forming cells before the remaining blood is returned to the donor through the other arm.Recovery time varies. Most donors are able to return to work, school and other activities within 1 to 7 days after donation.

If you are not attending services at Mount Zion, and are interested in the registry drive, please contact Sally to let her know you are coming. If you want to come to High Holiday services at Mount Zion you can order tickets here or by calling 651-698-3881.