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Florida physician donates blood stem cells to woman battling Myelodysplastic Disorder

Apr 21, 2023 by Gift of Life Donor Story

Joshua was in Las Vegas in 2012 at TribeFest, a large educational event organized by the Jewish Federations of North America’s National Young Leadership, when he swabbed to join Gift of Life’s Marrow Registry. 

“My uncle had leukemia and my mother was a bone marrow donor for him, for her brother,” said Joshua. “So, there is a family history of blood cancer and also of bone marrow donation. It was something that was really important to me. Also, as a physician and having worked with transplant recipients and seeing how they have benefited, I knew that being on the registry was really important.” 

Less than a year after joining the registry, Joshua received his first call from Gift of Life.

“I was in my office when I got the first call in 2013,” said Joshua. “They said, ‘Hey, do you remember swabbing last year, there may be someone who needs your bone marrow, would you be willing to do it?’ I said of course, but I got a call back saying the patient wasn’t ready and the doctors were going in a different direction.”  

But the story doesn’t end there. Seven years later, Joshua received another call from Gift of Life about a potential match with a woman in her 30s battling Myelodysplastic Disorder, a form of blood cancer where blood cells are unable to mature or function normally.

I felt terrible that this person had been suffering, but I was happy to help. I just felt like it was a moral obligation, the right thing to do.

“In 2020, I received another call and thought to myself ‘I hope I can help them out,’” he said. “The donor services rep said, ‘I think we’re ready for you now. It’s sounds pretty real this time that they’re going to need you to donate. She’s ready.’ I told my wife as soon as I got home. I felt terrible that this person had been suffering, but I was happy to help. I just felt like it was a moral obligation, the right thing to do.”

Joshua was invited to come to the Adelson Collection Center in Boca Raton, Fla. to donate peripheral blood stem cells. Stem cell donation uses the apheresis process where blood is drawn from one arm, the stem cells are collected in the machine, and the remaining blood is returned to the donor through the other arm. 

“My wife and I came down from our home in Sarasota the night before and spent a night in the hotel which was lovely,” said Joshua. “She sat with me for most of the collection once I got plugged in. The facility is absolutely beautiful, and the professionalism and the kindness of the people that work there is like nothing I’ve ever experienced anywhere. We just watched TV during my donation which took three or four hours. They said my blood was flowing well and when the collection was done, I hydrated up and she drove us back home.”

Having gone through the donation process himself, Joshua underlines the importance and ease of being on the registry and donating.

“I cannot stress enough, how good it made me feel to be able to go through the process and to help someone, but by that same token it’s nothing anyone should be scared about,” said Joshua. “Everything was first class, and we need to get the word out because so many people are in need. It was easy and the spiritual and emotional payoff is worth it and anybody and everybody who sees this should get screened.”

Joshua, 52, lives in Sarasota with his wife where he works as a urologist. He is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University, where he joined the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity. He attended medical school at Jefferson Medical College. Joshua enjoys playing golf and pickleball with his wife and spending time with his three adult children.  

Joshua’s swab kit was sponsored by the Help4Ezra Donor Circle.