Gift of Life:  My Bone Marrow Donation Experience

Gift of Life: My Bone Marrow Donation Experience

As I write this article, I’m on a small plane, throttling over the clouds somewhere between Florida1 and Montreal. Someone behind me is snoring, and I’m tapping away quietly on my laptop, trying not to wake them up. I’ve just returned from one of the most incredible experiences of my life, and I’d like to share the story.

In the summer of 2018, I went on an organized trip to Israel, called Birthright, or Taglit in Hebrew. The trip is sponsored by the Israeli government and is made free for young Jews, in an effort to encourage a connection and immigration to Israel. We spent ten days hauling around the beautiful country on a bus, visiting various sites and attractions. One evening, a man from an organization called Gift of Life came to speak to our group. He explained that GoL is a registry with a mission to cure blood cancer through cellular therapy,2 and we could get involved. The organization runs drives on campuses and elsewhere, and that to join the registry of potential donors, we had to swab our cheeks. If anyone of us were found to be a match for someone with leukemia, we would have the opportunity to donate bone marrow. I completed the kit and joined the registry without much thought.

A few months ago, I got an email from GoL that I was a potential match for a man suffering from leukemia. At that point, I was told, I had a 25% chance of being a match. That was much better than the 1 in 430 chance most donors had, but I still didn’t think much of it. I was asked to do another cheek swab test, which was sent to me through expedited delivery from GoL’s lab in Florida. Blood tests followed, all hurriedly done in clinics that had been transformed into Covid-19 testing sites. Montreal was under lockdown and travel was restricted, so it was a nerve-wracking time. 

After the tests, things picked up pace. I still remember the phone call I received, telling me that I was a match. The plan was to fly me Florida to go through a procedure where my stem cells could be extracted and transplanted into the leukemia patient, saving his life. 

In late October, GoL flew my sister and I to Florida, all expenses paid. We were there for a week, since for 4 days prior to the procedure I had to be injected each morning with a medication to increase the stem cell count in my blood. We were put up in a hotel by the beach, and each day after my morning injection my sister and I got to explore the area. We visited museums, the wetlands, Trader Joe’s and the beach. As this was the height of the election, we witnessed multiple Trump rallies, a mask burning ceremony, and we were told who to vote for by cashiers, Uber drivers, and an anti-vax protester (too bad neither me nor my sister are American).  

At the end of the week, a sleek car service drove us to the donation center. It didn’t seem clinical at all- we were greeted warmly, and offered snacks, a blanket, and other comforts. I was shown into a cubicle where the nurses administered some tests and gave me my final shot of medication. Then, I had a needle inserted into each of my arms. During a process called Peripheral Blood Stem Cell (PBSC) donation, blood was taken out of one arm and run through a machine called a blood cell separator. The machine took PBSC, some platelets, and some white blood cells, and then returned plasma and red blood cells into my other arm.3

After about six hours, the machine was still chugging away beside me. Two women in lab coats, with clipboards and somber expressions, came into the cubicle. 

Photo: “Pinning my location on the map of donors… I had to estimate my city’s location since the map only included the United States” by Ita Sonnenschein

“We have bad news,” they said.

At that point, I was tired, calcium deficient and cranky, and I feared the worst. Maybe my stem cells weren’t good enough. Maybe the patient’s condition had deteriorated. My worries proved to be unfounded when they said was that my stem cells were slow and I would need to stay in Florida for an extra day to finish the process. Our flight was changed and our hotel stay was extended.

Day two of the extraction process was rough. Both my arms were sore so I couldn’t move much. My fingers and nose were tingling and I was light-headed. After a total of eleven hours, they had collected all the stem cells and plasma that they needed. (For comparison, the guy in the next cubicle took three hours to donate.) 

I’ll have to wrap up this article because the plane is landing, and I should probably stow my laptop. I feel really blessed to have been afforded this opportunity. Not many people get the chance to save a life, and in sunny Florida, no less. This experience restored my faith in humanity just a tiny bit. First, it’s thanks to modern medicine and technology that I could fly to another country, have some of my insides removed, and have that flown across the world to save someone’s life. Second, the existence of Gift of Life facilitated this entire process, thanks to all the financial donors, employees, and everyone who’s gotten their cheeks swabbed and joined the registry. I’m enormously grateful to have been a part of it all. 

To find out how you can join the registry and potentially save a life, visit www.giftoflife.org.

An Interview with the President of the TAV College Students’ Association

An Interview with the President of the TAV College Students’ Association

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

My name is Karin Etemadi and I’m a science student. I am now the president of the TCSA. I like to work with my peers. My objective is to help them try to achieve what they want in life. Every one of us may have different goals and we should use our talents together to build something greater. It’s not like one person can do something perfectly. There may be some exceptions but mostly not. In my opinion, it’s just finding those people, involving them in what they can do best and encouraging them to go beyond what they think they are capable of.

Why did you run for TCSA?

The reason I ran for TCSA was because I felt TAV, as a community, was lacking a lot. I see that my friends think there should be changes made, but none of them stepped up to implement their opinions. I know what people are complaining about so I decided to just go for it and do it myself.

What would you say is your main role in your position as president?

As the president of TAV, my whole ideology is to promote a sense of community. I want to make things possible for the students. I want to help create opportunities for their future. For example, we’re planning another event like the stress management one, to help students acquire the skills they need to nail an online interview. 

What are some of your goals?

I want to raise awareness about our community to high school students. I would like to be an advocate for change to ensure that some of the students’ basic needs are met and change will be implemented into the new building. For example, I’d like to make sure that there will be a library that students will have access to in person and online. Students care a lot about their studies.

What is your vision for TAV?

As a freshman, I was lost. I didn’t know anybody, I didn’t know how to move forward or the available opportunities. I feel like, as a community, we have to welcome them and show them how to move forward. It may be because I was coming to a new place but it’s also the responsibility of the college to create the right atmosphere. 

My personal dream for TAV is to make themselves more known. I want to initiate collaborations across other colleges. I’d Like to create more opportunities for students. I want everyone to have an enjoyable year. I want people to experience positive change. 

Creativity in Problem-Solving: How Does Problem-Solving Creativity Appear in Our Daily Life?

Creativity in Problem-Solving: How Does Problem-Solving Creativity Appear in Our Daily Life?

Problem-solving is the ability to find out the ultimate goal of a problem by applying the proper rules or methods.

In alma maters, it is crucial to apply appropriate methods that enhance problem-solving skills. According to India Today, pupils are mostly instilled with conventional methods or rote-learning which are based on memorization and repetition to answer any questions. Therefore, these rules give students particular ways of problem-solving to come up with exact answers. Consequently, pupils are confined within those methods and solve unexpected problems independently. According to Rohan Mathur, a marketing director of The Lego Group, creative problem solving needs to be developed due to its importance in contributing to children’s success. Lego contributes to children’s creativity by its implementation of the cycle of human creativity “Experiment. Fail. Break the rules. Fail and try again”. 

In the pandemic-stricken world where most schools are remote, teachers and school administrators are trying to alter their learning methods due to this unwanted impediment. As reported by The New York Times, Emmie Galan, a physical education teacher, asked that her students walk around their neighborhood while she was riding a bike, showing them some of the city’s landmarks in her virtual class. This abnormal time period also required Derek Eckman to come up with different ideas for his students in a physical education class. For certain sports where equipment is required, he suggested his pupils find any other objects that were alike to the one necessary, due to the lack of school equipment. Therefore, creativity has played important roles in how the education system has dramatically changed. To manage during this abrupt transition, creative plans have been implemented to adapt to the educational system and to foster children’s motivation. 

Education is not the only field where creative problem solving exists, it’s also required in the field of medicine. David A. Shaywitz has demonstrated how innovation and creativity are pertinent to the development of medicine. In his article, he claimed that in this rapid world where the high amount of throughput is more concerned, there is less room for innovation of unknown maladies. The frequency of repetition of well-known health problems has overpassed that of creative problem solving of anonymous issues. Being aware of these circumstances, several medical schools and foundations have built programs that aim to spark curiosity in young doctors. Thus, creative problem-solving plays an important role in developing medical jobs.

Creativity in problem-solving is subtle in most professions such as lawyers, police, mechanics, managers, marketing, etc. Advocates need to be innovative and creative when an unpredictable situation catches them by surprise and they must skillfully manage to go through and complete their mission of defending. Fields that handle security need creative people that are equipped to deal with different criminals. It is the same case for mechanics or managers, where creative problem-solving acts as a boon to elevate and accomplish work qualities. Most jobs are filled with unique problems that require creative people who can manage and overcome these problems.

In a nutshell, creative problem solving plays a significant role in the educational system and jobs successes so it is imperative to develop this skill from now on!

Breaking the Silence: Destigmatizing Medical Conditions

Breaking the Silence: Destigmatizing Medical Conditions

About this new series:

Living with a chronic or life threatening illness brings a whole host of challenges. Oftentimes, these challenges can be invisible. This makes it harder for others to be compassionate and helpful. People who experience medical issues can feel like their life is out of their control, which can make it really difficult for them to reach out for help. 

The goal of this series is to raise awareness about medical conditions through storytelling and through information. Knowledge is power. Hearing and understanding people’s experiences can help you be better equipped to respond the next time you encounter someone with a medical condition. 

It will hopefully make you more aware and sensitive towards others struggling. This can even be in the simplest form of avoiding the generalization and misuse of medical conditions. Doing so diminishes, undermines and devalues what individuals with those conditions experience. For example, using expressions like you’re retarded, I’m depressed, I’m so OCD can be hurtful to those who have medical retardation, depression or OCD. 

I have chosen to start the series covering an individual who struggles with anxiety and depression because of its rising relevancy due to the pandemic. According to a study from the Univerity of Toronto, unemployment in combination with the isolation may cause a spike in suicide deaths.

CANADIAN SUICIDE AND PREVENTION SUPPORT:

WEBSITE: https://www.crisisservicescanada.ca/en/looking-for-local-resources-support/

CALL: 1.833.456.4566 

TEXT:  45645

Depression & Anxiety 

Baby I was born this way

As a child, I  was always very quiet and shy. I am, by nature, a thinker and an observer. I process the things going on around me differently than other people. People would always ask me why aren’t you smiling? and why are you so serious?  As a young child, you don’t necessarily have worries in your life. Everything is simplistic. You become more knowledgeable and aware of the world around you as you reach adolescence. I always knew I was different and it was hard for me to understand that in my naive mind. Looking back, there were definitely signs of depression. It was always a part of me which makes it a big struggle. It didn’t appear, it was always there.

The Diagnosis 

Around 12, it became more prominent in my life. I don’t know what triggered the flare-up but I felt a sudden emotional awareness. I didn’t know how to react to it or deal with it. I began to see what I liked and disliked in my life. I was under a lot of emotional stress in school. People were not nice to me and bullied me. They treated me differently. My mother is more towards the aggressive side and would constantly take it out on me. It sort of brought out these emotions that I was feeling inside that I didn’t know how to, or want to, identify. It was really painful. Emotional pain is not logical and there are no words to describe or explain it. It’s something I had to work on and fight with.

As time progressed and the situation got worse, I started taking it out on myself. I was around 14 when I started cutting. It was only a matter of time that someone would found out and told my parents. When they found out they took me to a therapist and a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with anxiety and depression. My official diagnosis wasn’t a shock to me because I was expecting it. But at this point in my life, I didn’t want to accept the help that was given to me. 

My parents didn’t take my diagnosis well. They are also more close-minded. After a while they seem to have come to terms with it or they are just quiet. They sometimes make remarks that make me realize they don’t see the connection between mental illness and my actions. It’s hard to see sometimes. They wonder why I am in a bad mood but I am feeling depressed that day.

People around my age are more comfortable with it. I am not embarrassed of it. I think it’s something that is difficult and hard but it makes you a better person. My friends never really cared because this is just a part of me, it’s who I am. The environment around us has improved to become more accepting and aware of mental health issues.

Winds of Change

My first therapist was terrible. She would yell at me and she would hold religion over my head. I didn’t feel comfortable opening up to my next therapist. I never clicked with them. I wasn’t ready or comfortable enough to share. If you don’t feel comfortable changing there’s nothing to do. It took a good few years until I found someone who I felt comfortable with. It was such a relief for me. I didn’t want to be this way. I wanted to better myself and change. I needed help to feel comfortable enough to help myself. 
Those few years of finally making change were the most difficult but necessary years of my life. I wouldn’t be able to be a functioning human being without going through that process. I’d be depressed and sleeping the whole day. It would make me not want to do anything and have no energy. I was a person  I didn’t want to be. I experienced it and hated it. It made me feel bad about myself and it was such a low part of my life. Working on myself, no matter how difficult it was, was necessary. It made me the person I am today. Sometimes I have low points but because I did all that work, so I know how to bring myself out of it. I know how to not stay locked down. It’s okay to be sad and down for a few days as long as you know how to get yourself out of it. Some days you just don’t feel like doing anything. That’s okay but you, ultimately, need to get back up again.

Perfectly Imperfect

The number one thing I want people to know that there’s nothing wrong with you. It’s not a bad thing. You shouldn’t be afraid of it. It’s just something you have and learn to live with. It has no reflection on who you are. You need to realize it isn’t a problem with you and that it is just something that you have. If you think there’s something wrong with you, you take it out on yourself. Coming to realize that makes it easier to deal with. It’s like being born with a birthmark on your hand or an allergy, it’s just a part of you.
Another important thing to realize is that sometimes you just need to reach out. I wanted to do everything myself. When I realized that it was ok to be vulnerable and ask for help, it made my healing process much smoother. 

The name and all identifying details have been withheld for privacy.

If you’d like to share your story, email tjdc@tav.ca with ‘breaking the silence’ as the subject line.

The following information concerning depression, anxiety and self harm have been taken from the CDC, the National Institute of Mental Health and the Centre for Suicide Prevention for the Canadian Mental Health Association.



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