What do you do when someone saves your life? If you are Jewish community member and local celebrity “Stuntman” Stu Schwartz, you try to give back and save more lives.
Last month, Schwartz, the Majic 100 morning radio host and Ottawa Senators home game announcer, had the chance to meet David Levi, the man who saved his life with a bone marrow donation. After this special and emotional meeting, Schwartz decided he needed to do more to help others, just as Levi had helped him. He partnered with the donor registry to create “Stu’s Pool,” a dedicated pool of people to sponsor bone-marrow DNA tests.
In February 2016, Schwartz was diagnosed with leukemia. He soon learned he would need a bone-marrow transplant to save his life. An extensive local and national search failed to find a match for him, so his doctors reached out to Ezer Mizion, a not-for-profit Israeli organization that manages the world’s largest Jewish bone-marrow donor registry.
Located in Israel, Ezer Mizion collaborates with 48 other countries around the world. Donors and recipients need to be genetically compatible, so patients of Jewish ethnicity often require stem cell donors of the same ethnic origin. Because of this, the registry has become a vital resource and a safety net for Jewish patients everywhere.
Levi is an Israeli citizen who provided a swab sample to the DNA registry 10 years ago when he was in the Israeli army, which has a partnership with Ezer Mizion. In May 2016, he got the call that he was a match and was asked to donate.
Last month, Levi was flown to Ottawa by Ezer Mizion to meet Schwartz, who was anxious to thank him in person.
“The meeting between Stuntman Stu and David Levi was very special and touching,” said Dena Benshalom, director of Ezer Mizion’s Canadian operations. “The families were so happy.”
Arriving in Ottawa, Levi was greeted with excitement and gratitude, said Benshalom. “People were honking their horns and shouting ‘thank you for saving Stu.’”
“Meeting David was surreal,” said Schwartz. “This is the man who saved my life and still, a month later, I can’t wrap my head around the whole experience.
“He was so wonderful to my family and we got a chance to get to know each other. I hope to visit him with my family one day in Israel. I’ve never been there and and looking forward to it.”
After the transplant and recovery, “Stu said he had to do something really big,”said Benshalom, explaining Schwartz’s motivation for creating the DNA pool. “Because everyone knows and loves him, he wanted to help others as he had been helped.”
So he created a donor pool to sponsor DNA tests.
“I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for Ezer Mizion,” Schwartz said. “So it makes perfect sense for me to encourage donations and promote what they do”.
“Right now, we have almost 900,000 active donors registered, and our goal is to reach a million,” said Benshalom.
“Every month,” she explained, “Ezer Mizion co-ordinates about 35 bone-marrow or stem-cells transplants in Canada.”
The cost of processing each swab is $65 and there are 27 registries for one match.
“Stu created a pool of 100,000 Israeli shekels that would sponsor 460 DNA tests.”
The greatest need at the moment, she says, is to donate money to Stu’s pool.
“Our goal is to help Stu fill his pool. The pool is labelled, and when a donation is found we call the creator of the pool, and he notifies all the donors.”
“It’s constantly refilled again and again – there’s no limit to how many lives can be saved.”
To donate to Stu’s donor pool and help save lives, please visit: www.ezermizion.org/stuspool