More than 300 donors, recipients, volunteers, and supporters attended the annual Celebrating Life New York City held at the Hotel Edison Rooftop Ballroom on February 23, 2023. The event honors the outstanding members of the Gift of Life Marrow Registry community.
The highlight of the event was the moment when Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma survivor Diane Berson met her lifesaving peripheral blood stem cell donor Alexandra Levy. The two women hugged and shared a few words with the attendees, delighted to finally meet each other. They were introduced by Evan Dolgow, a member of Gift of Life’s Young Professionals organization and a blood stem cell donor himself.
Although the pair now share the same immune system and blood type, the two women had never met, as regulations prevent donors and recipients from being identified for the first year after transplant.
Ethan told attendees that Diane, 69, was on vacation in Florida in 2019 when she unexpectedly got sick. Soon after she was diagnosed with a rare form of Non-Hodgkin’s T-cell Lymphoma, Angioimmunoblastic T-cell Lymphoma. Luckily, a donor was quickly found on Gift of Life’s registry.
“I was relieved when a Gift of Life donor coordinator called me and let me know there was a perfect match,” said Diane. “But I was just as surprised and amazed that someone would be willing to donate to a perfect stranger.”
The donor, 27-year-old Alexandra, joined Gift of Life’s registry in November, 2015 while a student at Tulane University in New Orleans. She learned that she was a match five years later, and was excited to be able to help someone in need in such a tangible way.
Finally, the big moment arrived, and Alexandra came on stage to meet Diane for the first time.
“Diane, I wish you continued health and happiness,” said Alexandra. “I’m so honored to be here tonight, to have been a part of your journey, and to get to meet you in person.”
“I have been very excited and anxious to meet my donor,” said Diane. “You are a special person and you saved my life. The pandemic did not deter Alexandra, and she is my superhero.”
Alexandra, 27, is originally from Boston, Mass. but is doing some travelling thanks to her remote job as a Program Manager for a health technologies company. She is a graduate of Tulane University. In her free time, Alexandra enjoys reading, yoga, skiing, and spending time with friends and family.
Diane, 69, is a retired TV/video producer and lives in Leonia, N.J. Being cancer free, she now enjoys playing pickleball and plans to play more.
To view the photo gallery from Celebrating Life, click here.
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Alexandra's swab kit was sponsored by the Campus Ambassador Program Donor Circle.