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Bone Marrow Donor Turns Camp Hero

Jul 15, 2011 by Gift of Life News

Jennifer Hahn has made a career out of supporting and helping non-profit organizations, She first became involved with the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation through a donor drive at Larchmont Temple in 2006. Jennifer was compelled to go to the drive because she wanted to help others. In the corner of her mind, she thought that while any unknown person with a life-threatening cancer or disease is a stranger, they are someone’s child, parent, relative, or friend, and the call to help was clear. After getting her cheek swabbed, the idea of becoming an actual donor was a remote thought until she received a call from Gift of Life in 2010.
Her life has always had purpose, but it gained a new one the day she was called as a potential match for an older gentleman diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL). When she first found out about becoming a potential donor, she was excited. The idea of being afraid did not even enter her mind; instead, she was determined, and when Jennifer went through additional screening and was cleared to donate blood stem cells, she went on a mission to be in the best shape she could be. It was vital to her to be at her healthiest to give the patient a fighting chance to live a longer, stronger life through her gift of healthy bone marrow.
On May 18th, 2010, three weeks before her son’s Bar Mitzvah, Jennifer donated blood stem cells (PBSC) and gave a very precious gift to a man she didn’t even know. A month after donating, she heard from the representatives at Gift of Life, who informed her that the marrow had grafted and it was considered a success. She was elated to hear this, and at the six month mark, she decided to check up on her recipient; she contacted Gift of Life to inquire after him, but sadly, she was told that the man had passed away. The news was heartbreaking; she had felt an intense connection with him, and she had hoped and prayed that he would go on to live a long life.
Though there was no happy ending, Jennifer does not regret her decision to donate for a minute. The idea that she gave him more time with those he cared about, perhaps to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, or just simply spending time with the ones who loved him is a reassuring thought for her. If given the opportunity, she would donate again, and she says that “the lesson is in the giving…the human connection.” This experience has inspired her to become an ambassador for Gift of Life, and since then, she has volunteered at several donor drives. Jennifer is compelled by the idea that a person can save another person, that there are people walking around who have been given the “gift of life."
Most recently, she facilitated a donor drive at Eisner Camp in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. The event was held opening day, June 26th. As any parent or camper knows, the first day of camp is always hectic, but they managed to swab an average of 17 cheeks per hour for a grand total of 52! Though she had hoped for a slightly higher number, Jennifer was pleased with the results. She had help from other volunteers, and her 9 year old son even pitched in. Her older son, who is 14, is a camper this summer at the camp, and though both boys are too young to donate, she hopes that they will register when they turn 18.
Jennifer is more than a donor and volunteer– she is a role-model for her community and children. She wants kids to learn to appreciate life and the value of helping others. Her passion for saving lives is evident, and the knowledge of how to save a life is permanently engrained in her.


Survivor Story
I was diagnosed with myeleofibrosis, a fatal bone marrow disease where the bone marrow becomes extensively scarred, in December 2007. I learned of my illness when I had an unexpected gallbladder surgery and had uncontrolled bleeding, which resulted in a bone marrow biopsy to determine why I had bled. Though the condition could be controlled by medication, the doctors informed me that I would need a bone marrow or blood stem cell transplant within two years to survive.
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