While on his gap year in Israel, Eitan was in the Old City in Jerusalem when his roommate ran a swabbing event for Gift of Life. Both Eitan and his roommate had personal connections to the organization.
“My uncle was chosen as a match and donated bone marrow,” said Eitan. “He then met his recipient at the 5k in Florida. My uncle’s story was very inspirational to me.” Eitan’s uncle, Matthew Pekofsky, donated bone marrow to then 12-year-old Andrea Altamirano in 2013. The pair was introduced for the first time in 2015 at the 5th Annual Steps for Life held in Boca Raton, Fla.
Two years after joining the registry, Eitan was called by Gift of Life as a match, but not for a patient. He was called as a match for medical research. Some of the most exciting research going on today is in cellular therapies, with many organizations working to develop advanced treatments for blood cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
This research often begins with a cell donor whose specific tissue type is needed for the development of a particular medication. Mononuclear cells (MNC) are often requested for this purpose as they represent a variety of cell types. Donors who give cells for medical research still remain active in the registry, and may be matched with a patient in the future, or be requested for additional research donations.
Gift of Life arranged for Eitan, 20, and his mother to travel from New York to South Florida for his donation. Unlike Peripheral Blood Stem Cell (PBSC) donation, MNC collections do not require the use of Neupogen. On the day of collection, a car service brought him from the hotel to the Adelson Collection Center in Boca Raton.
“When my mother and I arrived at the facility, it was beautiful,” said Eitan. “Everyone there treated me so well and were excited and appreciative that I was donating. During my collection, I learned Torah, watched a few shows, and chatted with my mother who stayed by my side. I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous going into the donation, but it all went well and my recovery was amazingly quick.”
Eitan’s family was very proud of him, and several members of his family were inspired to swab and join the bone marrow registry.
“Having donated for research, I feel connected to so many people around the world,” said Eitan. “I have taken time to learn about the scary sicknesses that the people I donated to help are going through, and I have learned a lot about the meaning of what is it to care for your community.”
Eitan urges people to join the registry and that nobody should pass up an incredible opportunity.
“I tell everybody to not worry, that you will have the best support system and medical staff to help you throughout the process,” he said. “The feeling of being able to help those in need is something like no other.”
Eitan, 20, is a junior at Yeshiva University in New York City where he is majoring in business management. When not in class, he enjoys playing hockey and basketball and learning Torah. Eitan is looking forward to continuing his involvement and staying connected with Gift of Life.
Eitan’s swab kit was sponsored by the Wieser Family Donor Circle.