September 10, 2008

Positivity: Bone marrow recipient meets life-saving donor

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:57 am

From New Jersey and New York:

September 9, 2008

To treat his leukemia, Metuchen man turned to national registry

Gary Schnitzer of Metuchen, who two years ago was facing death in his battle with leukemia, was filled with anticipation and questions as he prepared to meet the man whose stem cell donation saved his life.

“It was special for the entire family, including our son, Cole, who is eight years old,” said the 45-year-old Schnitzer. “We had waited a long time to be able to meet.”

The meeting took place Aug. 24 at Shea Stadium in Queens, during a Jewish Heritage Day game between the New York Mets and Houston Astros. The Mets donated a private suite for the occasion.

‘It was a wonderful experience and an important blessing.’

Schnitzer was introduced to Steven Eisenberg of Woodmere, Long Island. Up until then, Eisenberg knew only that his decision to undergo a procedure to donate blood stem cells on Nov. 7, 2006, had saved someone’s life.

Donor and donee were brought together by the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation, a Boca Raton, Fla., organization founded by former West Orange resident Jay Feinberg. The organization seeks compatible donors for people with forms of leukemia, lymphoma, immuno-deficiencies, and aplastic anemia.

While international regulations require bone marrow donations to be anonymous., donors and recipients may meet after one year by mutual agreement.

The weeks leading up to the emotional meeting were described by Schnitzer’s wife, Loren Roller Schnitzer, as “very nerve-wracking.” The couple tried to formulate a picture of what the donor was like. The biggest surprise tuned out to be his age.

“We just thought the donor would be in his 20s,” said Roller Schnitzer. “It turned out he was 51 years old.”

Schnitzer immediately felt at ease with Eisenberg; both men are reserved. Loren hit it off with Eisenberg’s wife, Malka. The Long Island couple also brought their four children, ages 13 to 25.

Schnitzer said the two discussed what it was like to go through the donation process and what being a donor meant to Eisenberg. But it was something else the donor said that particularly struck him.

“When Steven received the phone call in January 2007 that I was doing well, he was with Malka, who was prepped for cancer surgery,” recalled Schnitzer. “He said she was 15 minutes from being brought into the operating room. To receive the news that I was doing well was a sign that his wife would also be well — and she is.”

Since the transplant, Schnitzer has also been unable to eat shellfish and was curious whether Eisenberg shared his new food allergy or if it was the result of the iodine he received in the testing process.

“It turned out he is an Orthodox Jew and, of course, doesn’t eat shellfish,” said Schnitzer. “Since the transplant, neither can I.”

Eisenberg, in a statement released through Gift of Life, described getting tested as “like buying a lottery ticket…if you’re a match you both hit the jackpot.”

Gary Schnitzer of Metuchen, who two years ago was facing death in his battle with leukemia, was filled with anticipation and questions as he prepared to meet the man whose stem cell donation saved his life.

“It was special for the entire family, including our son, Cole, who is eight years old,” said the 45-year-old Schnitzer. “We had waited a long time to be able to meet.”

The meeting took place Aug. 24 at Shea Stadium in Queens, during a Jewish Heritage Day game between the New York Mets and Houston Astros. The Mets donated a private suite for the occasion.

Schnitzer was introduced to Steven Eisenberg of Woodmere, Long Island. Up until then, Eisenberg knew only that his decision to undergo a procedure to donate blood stem cells on Nov. 7, 2006, had saved someone’s life.

Donor and donee were brought together by the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation, a Boca Raton, Fla., organization founded by former West Orange resident Jay Feinberg. The organization seeks compatible donors for people with forms of leukemia, lymphoma, immuno-deficiencies, and aplastic anemia.

While international regulations require bone marrow donations to be anonymous., donors and recipients may meet after one year by mutual agreement.

The weeks leading up to the emotional meeting were described by Schnitzer’s wife, Loren Roller Schnitzer, as “very nerve-wracking.” The couple tried to formulate a picture of what the donor was like. The biggest surprise tuned out to be his age.

“We just thought the donor would be in his 20s,” said Roller Schnitzer. “It turned out he was 51 years old.”

Schnitzer immediately felt at ease with Eisenberg; both men are reserved. Loren hit it off with Eisenberg’s wife, Malka. The Long Island couple also brought their four children, ages 13 to 25.

Schnitzer said the two discussed what it was like to go through the donation process and what being a donor meant to Eisenberg. But it was something else the donor said that particularly struck him.

“When Steven received the phone call in January 2007 that I was doing well, he was with Malka, who was prepped for cancer surgery,” recalled Schnitzer. “He said she was 15 minutes from being brought into the operating room. To receive the news that I was doing well was a sign that his wife would also be well — and she is.”

Since the transplant, Schnitzer has also been unable to eat shellfish and was curious whether Eisenberg shared his new food allergy or if it was the result of the iodine he received in the testing process.

“It turned out he is an Orthodox Jew and, of course, doesn’t eat shellfish,” said Schnitzer. “Since the transplant, neither can I.”

Eisenberg, in a statement released through Gift of Life, described getting tested as “like buying a lottery ticket…if you’re a match you both hit the jackpot.”

Code blue

Schnitzer received the transplant at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey in New Brunswick, where he was also treated for his leukemia. During the harrowing period Schnitzer came close to death four times. At one point the hospital called a code blue, a designation meaning death could be imminent.

He has been leukemia-free since the transplant, although he is still troubled by immunological setbacks known as “Graft Verses Host,” common among transplant recipients.

“I live a normal life with few exceptions,” said Schnitzer, who owns the Bike N Gear bicycle shop in Somerset.

Schnitzer received the transplant at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey in New Brunswick, where he was also treated for his leukemia. During the harrowing period Schnitzer came close to death four times. At one point the hospital called a code blue, a designation meaning death could be imminent.

He has been leukemia-free since the transplant, although he is still troubled by immunological setbacks known as “Graft Verses Host,” common among transplant recipients.

“I live a normal life with few exceptions,” said Schnitzer, who owns the Bike N Gear bicycle shop in Somerset. …..

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