Oregon stem cell donor travels to Florida to save man battling leukemia
Daniel could hardly believe the great news when Gift of Life called him in February 2020: he was a match for a 68-year-old man battling to survive leukemia and was needed for a stem cell transplant.
“I joined the registry while I was in Israel on Birthright,” said Daniel, 29, who resides in Oregon. “I was studying with a program that visited the holy city of Tzfat where the Kabbalah originated, when Gift of Life came in and made a presentation about how each of us has the potential to save someone fighting blood cancer.” He decided right away to join the registry and waited for years to get that special call.
“I always thought, when are they going to make the call? When will I be a match for someone?” said Daniel. “I was at work when that call came and I was thrilled, maybe more than most people – the lady on the phone said, ‘Wow, you’re really excited!’, but it meant so much to me. My step-dad who raised me died from pancreatic cancer. This disease of cancer has always been a black cloud in my family’s life.”
With this chance to help someone survive cancer and keep their family whole, Daniel was ready to do whatever was needed. Because of the pandemic, Gift of Life’s own collection center in Boca Raton, Fla. had added capacity so that hospital facilities can focus on treating COVID patients. Daniel, his wife Andrea and their young daughter arrived a few days before the donation.
“When someone suffers from cancer, they are not alone – an entire family is going through it together. As human beings we should help each other because we are all connected. You are helping yourself when you do this."
“The donor pod is extremely comfortable, and we had the best view looking out over the trees at Boca Raton,” said Daniel. “We watched a little Netflix, but mostly talked to the nurses, who were absolutely amazing, the best. They gave me everything I needed, and we learned a lot talking to them, such as the fact that matches are based on inherited tissue types. My wife is Mexican and we found out it’s more difficult for Mexican patients to find a match, as there is a shortage of Latinos in the registry. She joined the registry while I was donating, and we hope when we get home, we can run some drives in the community and help with that imbalance.”
Daniel would actually like to donate again. “Does that happen? I would absolutely donate again,” he said. “I did this to help someone out, but this was above and beyond what I expected. You’re getting the best treatment while donating stem cells; you are well taken care of.”
Daniel would also like to help others understand what it means to be a donor.
“If you want to help someone out, this is probably the best thing you can do,” he said. “When someone suffers from cancer, they are not alone – an entire family is going through it together. As human beings we should help each other because we are all connected. You are helping yourself when you do this.”
Daniel is the owner of a cannabis farm, and in his free time is an avid hiker. He has completed the Appalachian Trail, and the next major hike in his sights is the 2,653-mile Pacific Crest Trail. In addition to running the farm, he also enjoys woodworking and his hand-crafted cutting boards are popular items in the Portland area.