Ari is a co-founder at a cemetery tech start-up called PreservUs. When he isn’t saving lives he is usually out swimming or collecting Pokemon cards.
Five years ago, I swabbed with DKMS while at work at Edison Home Care in Brooklyn NY. I knew it was a nice thing to do and to be honest I figured I wouldn't actually ever be a match.
A late morning phone call in February 2021 made my heart stop. I WAS A MATCH.
As the coordinator on the phone spoke to me explaining the situation, all I could do was prepare myself for the inevitable question I was about to be asked: "Would you like to donate? I was sure my heart stopped beating for the first 10 seconds. Then I had an incredible emotional switch. I was excited, overwhelmed with happiness that I was able to do a good deed.
Ari smiles proudly with his registered donor ID card (2016)
To be very honest, the preparations for the donation in the week leading up to the procedure was very painful. My stem cell count had to be multiplied so I could give the extra cells to the donor. To help my body stimulate the new cell stem growth, I was given two injections of filgrastim a day. As my cell count grew, my bones felt like they were exploding from all the pressure inside of them. Finally, D-day arrived. I walked the halls of the hospital being treated like a celebrity and my head was held up higher than ever. I finally made it to the donation chair, got my last round of injections and had the IN/OUT lines inserted into my arms. All I could do was smile!
I had a six hour day ahead of me, but knowing that someone was getting a second chance at life and that the extra stem cells will FINALLY leave my body, I was filled with relief.
I spent most of the time watching Pokémon videos on YouTube and making a few phone calls to friends. Two hours into the donation, my nurse came in and informed me that my stem cell count wasn't as strong as they originally anticipated, and that in order to have a successful transplant, I would need to come in for a second day of transplant. They gave me the option to back out. However, turning back was out of the question for me. I gave my word--there was a person relying on me. I couldn’t let my recipient be subjected to news so devastating it could leave a person hopeless.
The choice was obvious. I finished the first transplant and returned home having to rest-up and prepare for another day. I felt a bit deflated, but more committed than ever.
My second day of the donation was challenging. All the excitement and hope I held behind my smile on day one wasn't enough to shield me from the pain and discomfort. I just wanted to get it over with.
After being unhooked from the apheresis machine, and finishing my post procedure monitoring, I proudly held up my bag of fresh stem cells. My smile and excitement resurfaced and I felt a tidal wave of emotion. My donation was on its way to a 10-year-old boy in need of a life-saving transplant.
Between the prep, transplants and recovery, I was out of commission for three weeks. Although I had pain and a lot of discomfort.
From the day I agreed to donate, I contemplated if I should tell people. Would it be arrogant of me to tell people that I may save someone's life? Would I develop a superhero complex? Would this donation become about me and not the patient fighting for his life?
I realized that if my story could inspire even just one person to swab and sign up to be a registered donor, it would be worth it. I don't know if I'll ever meet my recipient, but I sure hope I do. Knowing that I gave someone a second chance at life has fundamentally changed the way I see the world. You don't need to be a hero to save a life, all you gotta do is swab.
To learn more about becoming a potential stem cell donor CLICK HERE.