On July 23, 2021, two men who share a deep connection, but had never met, converged on Boca Raton, Fla. One of them had saved the other’s life through a blood stem cell transplant, but although the two had never met before, they were about to share a special moment with Gift of Life Marrow Registry.
Gift of Life was celebrating the 500th blood stem cell collection completed at the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Gift of Life-Be The Match Collection Center, a state-of-the-art apheresis center that opened in October 2019. The collection center is located in Gift of Life’s headquarters, along with the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy, biobank, donor services and operational facilities. Gift of Life was the first marrow registry in the world to build a fully integrated collection center within its registry.
To kick off the event, Omardeen “Dee” Woodley, R.N., the director of the collection center, welcomed transplant recipient David Fromson, a 49-year-old project manager from Denver, Colo. Dave is a survivor of colorectal cancer, and first learned he had a second cancer battle to undergo, with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, after a routine visit to his oncologist.
“It was a combination of, ‘Here we go again’ and, ‘How will I tell my wife?’” said Dave. A blood stem cell transplant was his best option for a cure, and he was fortunate that he had a perfectly matched donor in Gift of Life’s registry.
He was Josh Posner, who joined the registry in 2016 during UDance, the University of Delaware charity dance marathon held every spring. Josh, now 23 and a resident of Fort Lee, New Jersey, works in medical device sales. He was thrilled when he learned he was a match for someone in need.
“When I got the call I started tearing up at the thought of how lucky I was to be in this position,” said Josh. “Donating was single handedly the greatest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
Although donors and recipients remain anonymous for the first year, in the United States they may contact each other and meet after one year. The special moment for these two men arrived, and Dee invited Josh to come forward and meet Dave.
That moment was highly emotional, with a lengthy hug, huge smiles, and not a dry eye among the nearly 80 Gift of Life employees in the crowd, as well as Dave and Josh’s families. It was the perfect moment to show the incredible impact that our lifesaving mission has on those who receive transplants.
After the morning event, Josh and Dave and their families toured Gift of Life’s facilities, including the donor pod where Josh donated his stem cells, then they spent the afternoon together enjoying South Florida.
“We have a unique bond that is more than enough to build a friendship on,” said Dave. “It will be fascinating to see what else we have in common.”
Josh urged others to join the registry, saying, “It only takes 10-15 second [of swabbing your cheek] to find out if you can save a life – that’s one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made. Being a donor is one of the greatest and most rewarding experiences anyone can ever have.”
After returning to Denver, Dave hosted a recruitment drive for Gift of Life through his workplace, Martinez Fire Protection, where his co-workers were able to join the registry.