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Birthright trip results in saving the life of a teen

Aug 30, 2022 by Gift of Life Donor Story

Bobby not only had an incredible experience on his Birthright Israel trip in 2014, it led to him saving the life of a 16-year-old boy. 

“The whole experience of being in Israel on Birthright was beautiful, magical, and special,” said Bobby. “Towards the end of the trip I remember being at the Gift of Life table and thinking that joining the marrow registry was a good thing to do to pay it forward, a good mitzvah. I felt very drawn to it and had that feeling in my gut of, ‘You’ve got to do this.’” 

“I didn’t get the call until October 2021,” said Bobby. “I run a tech startup and was in the office when Gift of Life called me and told me I had matched a teen boy battling aplastic anemia and could possibly give him a second chance at life. My heart dropped and I started to tear up. What a blessing! Of course, I would do whatever it takes.” 

Aplastic anemia is a condition where the bone marrow produces other cells instead of producing blood cells, leaving young people without adequate protection from infections, and prone to anemia and bruising. The only known cure is a peripheral blood stem cell or bone marrow transplant. 

“I didn’t hear anything again until March 2022, when they called me back,” said Bobby. “One of my business partners is my girlfriend and she could see the look on my face. When I got off the phone and told her I would be donating, she broke down in tears. My mother and sister had the same reaction.” 

Through the entire process I felt a strong sense of purpose and gratitude. I think about my recipient every day, that he and his family have a new chapter that is turning for them.

Many registry members do not realize that there is no cost involved when they donate. Everything is handled by Gift of Life, from the blood test confirming the donor is the closest match to the patient, to the medical exams that verify they can donate safely, as well as any needed travel and accommodations. 

“I traveled from Santa Monica, California to Boca Raton, Florida to donate, and it was an amazing experience,” said Bobby. “When the people next to me on the plane heard I was going to Florida to donate, they both said, ‘This is a true gift.’ It was nice to see other peoples’ feeling of joy and gratitude, so it was quite a travel experience. I also did everything I could to be safe from COVID; I didn’t want anything to get in the way of being able to donate on schedule.”

When donors arrive in Florida they are picked up at the airport and stay at a beautiful, four-star resort on the beach in Delray, near Gift of Life’s state-of-the-art collection center. 

“The accommodation was beautiful – gorgeous – and in a great location, very comfortable and safe, and everyone I interacted with was gracious,” said Bobby. “The minute I got to the collection center I was greeted by my donor services coordinator – she’s a peach! She made sure my entire trip was a breeze, so it was fantastic to see her. When I got off the elevator and saw my name up on the screen and was being greeted by everyone, it really mattered to me and helped with my collection day butterflies.” 

Bobby has worked for years to develop his intuition and used part of his time during the donation process to meditate and fully experience what he was doing and sending best wishes to his recipient. 

“I feel like I know my recipient already, that we have a connection,” he said. “Through the entire process I felt a strong sense of purpose and gratitude. I think about my recipient every day, that he and his family have a new chapter that is turning for them and I suspect his recovery won’t be easy.  I’m here for a purpose, just as he is, and I want him to know that just as much as we are now a part of each other through shared stem cells, I am also sending him hope.” 

Bobby encourages anyone who might be thinking of joining the registry or who has been called as a match to go ahead and do it. 

“Donating is very easy to do and is a selfless act – it is a short time commitment for you, but it means the world to the person on the other end,” he said. “Everyone at Gift of Life takes great care of you and makes the entire process a smooth one, you are comfortable from start to finish, and are in the best hand. I know in my heart that everyone at Gift of Life is there for a purpose, and to help you.” 

“Like everyone I have obstacles in life,” said Bobby. “Every time I feel like things are tough I think of my recipient and what I was able to do for him. It gives me a sense of both pride and gratitude, and all my worries and doubts fade away. It’s such a big mitzvah, and he’s really my hero.” 

Bobby, 34, lives in Santa Monica, Calif. where he has started a digital, active learning platform for family wellness.  He is a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, and in his free time enjoys running, swimming, biking, and other outdoor activities. He also loves reading and learning new things, and traveling to new places.