I remember well back in 2007 the massive bone-marrow drive sponsored by Ezer Mizion, looking for a bone marrow match for Omri Attia.
Omri started getting severe headaches in 7th grade. By the time his classmates started 8th grade, he was undergoing blood tests which revealed he had leukemia. By January 2007, he was hospitalized and fighting for his life. Doctors searched desperately for a bone marrow match and enlisted Ezer Mizion, a nonprofit Israeli health support organization dedicated to getting medical help and social services support to the sick, the elderly, terror victims, special needs children and others.
Ezer Mizion has a bone marrow database. None of the 300,000 people registered were a match for Omri. A donor search at IDF bases and university campuses also failed to find a match.
Ezer Mizion decided to have a bone marrow drive. On a single day, November 21, 2007, 31,000 people turned out to be tested to see if one might be the bone marrow match that would save Omri's life.
Two and a half weeks later, the 31,000 samples had been analyzed and six of them were matches for Omri! As well, five other cancer patients waiting for bone marrow matches found their donors in this same drive.
I remember the sense of relief and gratitude I felt when reading this. I assumed a happy ending. I thought the bone marrow match was the end, the cure. I remember him being an excited and happy child when the bone marrow drive found a match for him. I remember his hope for the future: "Now I can be a regular boy," he said.
I was wrong.
I opened the newspaper yesterday to a News In Brief item which shattered my heart.
Omri's recovery was temporary. Despite six samples which were compatible, and the best efforts of his doctors, Omri suffered a relapse around Purim this year. Doctors ran tests and confirmed that his leukemia was back and had spread.
But what made me cry was Omri's question. His mother said that in the hours before his death, her son had cried, asking why this was happening when he "had done everything right?"
What answer can you give a child whose faith in doctors, in parents, in adults and in G-d made him believe that he would grow up to be a "normal boy"?
My heart goes out to this family.
If you live in Israel, consider doing something to commemorate Omri's life and struggle. Contact Ezer Mizion and offer them a blood sample. Maybe you'll save the life of another child. If you don't like needles, well, offer them a check. If you don't live in Israel, check out your nearest bone-marrow registry and offer them a blood sample--or a check.
And think of Omri, who just wanted to grow up to be a regular boy.....