|Paige LaMarche prepared for today’s bone marrow drive at Temple Israel in the Longwood Medical Area. (DAVID L. RYAN/GLOBE STAFF)|
On Yom Kippur, chance to save lives
When Paige LaMarche got the phone call, she never considered saying no.
In 2006, she had signed up with the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation at a conference for Jewish college students. The idea was excellent, she thought - how many people get the opportunity to save a life? - but chances were slim she would ever hear back.
Two years later, her number came up.
“They called and said, ‘You are a perfect match,’ ’’ said LaMarche, 27. “I got off that phone, and all I did was dance.’’
Today, the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation - an organization dedicated to finding organ donors, especially for Jewish people and other minorities - will sponsor bone marrow drives at two local synagogues, Temple Israel in the Longwood Medical Area and Temple Isaiah in Lexington.
The bone marrow drive is being held at the celebration of Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement. Members of both synagogues were given the opportunity to fill out their registration forms in advance to respect their observance of the Sabbath.
“There are going to be so many people here for the holiday,’’ said Evie Goldfine, an adviser for the organization. “It’s an opportunity to help others and to reach out to your fellow mankind.’’
During last year’s Yom Kippur, 331 people signed up when the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation hosted a drive at Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley. One of those people turned out to be a match for a 66-year-old man suffering from acute myelogenous leukemia.
Organizers of the drive are hoping they get a similar result this year.
“We believe that to save a life, it is as if you have saved the entire world,’’ Goldfine said. “If you get an opportunity to save a life, that’s an extraordinary thing.’’
Goldfine was the recipient of a bone marrow transplant in 2005, after her stage-four lymphoma relapsed. Her donor was a 22-year-old man studying in Israel.
“I eventually got to meet him,’’ Goldfine said. “How do you thank somebody who saved your life? What do you give somebody who does that?’’
Many, especially members of some ethnic groups, are not so lucky. In the early 1990s, the chances that a Jewish person would find a match for a bone marrow transplant were about 5 percent, Goldfine said. Since then, that figure has skyrocketed to 70 percent, in part because of marrow drives.
Goldfine said the organization is hoping to increase the number of black, Asian, Hispanic, American Indian, and mixed-race people registered as bone marrow donors. They are hoping to sponsor a donor drive on Easter Sunday that will target Boston’s black community, she said.
LaMarche now works as a special projects coordinator for the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation.
One of the challenges of finding bone marrow donors, she said, is that there are many misconceptions about the procedure. People often assume that a donation is painful and requires weeks in the hospital.
Instead, donors are typically anesthetized for the procedure and experience only mild soreness afterward, she said. Most are released from the hospital the same day.
It is important that people know about the details of blood marrow donations, she said, so they don’t balk when they get the call.
“We’re looking for quality, not quantity,’’ LaMarche said. “When people get the phone call, we want them to say yes.’’
Donors also have the option of remaining anonymous when they give blood marrow.
LaMarche chose this option. She says that anonymity in giving and receiving, in the Jewish faith, is what makes the perfect good deed.
But this year, LaMarche received sad news: The recipient of her donation, a woman in her 60s, died some time after the transplant. LaMarche was inconsolable.
“It was as if I lost a family member, even though I never met her,’’ LaMarche said.
But even with that knowledge, she said, she is glad she agreed to be a donor.
“I gave her at least a year for her to be with her family, and with her friends,’’ LaMarche said. “I wouldn’t change a thing.’’
Martine Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.