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Teen meets the heroic donor whose stem cells cured his lifelong immune disorder

Nov 01, 2021 by Gift of Life News

On September 23, 2021, two men connected by a shared immune system met for the first time at “Swab2Save Day” held at the Miami Beach Police Department (MBPD) headquarters. Seventeen-year-old Amir Ahmic and his mother Selma were thrilled at the chance to meet the man who saved Amir’s life. 

When Amir was only four months old he was diagnosed with an immune system disorder, Chronic Granulomatous Disease (CGD), where a type of white blood cell is unable to protect the body from infections. He spent his entire childhood in and out of hospitals and taking many medications each day. As a teen Amir also developed a second condition, ulcerative colitis, and his doctors recommended a stem cell transplant in the hope of curing the CGD and giving him a chance at a normal life. 

His stem cell donor, David Marder, was found just a few weeks later – he was a member of Gift of Life’s registry. David joined Gift of Life in 2014 while studying at a yeshiva in Israel. When he learned he was a match for a young patient, he had no hesitation about donating. 

“When the opportunity to save a life presented itself there was never a choice,” said David. “To help another person live is the most basic human trait.” 

The transplant took place in January 2019, but due to privacy regulations, the two, now so deeply connected, could not learn each other’s identities for at least a year. 

The opportunity to meet in person finally came during the special outdoor event featured an educational program and swabbing table where people could join Gift of Life as volunteer donors. Speakers included the Mayor of Miami Beach Dan Gelber, Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Clements and Gift of Life Founder and CEO Jay Feinberg.

The moment when David and Amir first met was deeply emotional, and mom Selma’s tears of joy were the high point of the morning. 

“You really changed my life completely,” said Amir, “It’s been a great day today and I’m really thankful.” 

“Our whole family is thankful to you for stepping up,” said Selma. “You helped a young man that you never met in your life, someone that you didn’t know.”  

After the meeting, David and Amir’s families spent the day together, including a tour of MBPD headquarters, lunch, and plenty of time to talk and share their stories. 

Our thanks go out to the Miami Beach Police Department for bringing David and Amir together, and for helping raise awareness of our lifesaving mission and the urgent need for donors to join the registry.