Hatzalah paramedic Yisrael Otmazgin. (United Hatzalah) (United Hatzalah)
Hatzalah paramedic Yisrael Otmazgin

“I realized the connection God made here–I am in Israel, an ultra-Orthodox Jew, and I saved the life of a Muslim boy in the United States,” said the bone marrow donor.

By Yakir Benzion, United With Israel

Yisrael Otmazgin is a paramedic with the United Hatalah organization in Israel and a reservist in the IDF. Like thousands of others he registered as a bone marrow donor and a year ago was called in to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital as a compatible recipient had been found.

He underwent the fully-sedated surgery in order to extract bone marrow and according to international law the identities of the donor and the recipient cannot be revealed for a year.

Otmazgin said a few days ago he received a phone call from the coordinator of bone marrow program at Hadassah, who told him the family of the recipient wanted to contact him and he had to sign a confidentiality waiver if he was interested in talking with them.

He signed the waiver and 24-hours later received the contact details, including that the marrow recipient was a young boy in the United States located in Michigan.

“I wanted to immediately contact them, but how could I? I didn’t know whether the boy’s life had been saved. If the boy died, then contacting them would deepen their trauma,” Otmazgin said.

“I decided to send a very carefully worded message. I identified myself as “the donor” and I wrote that I was very much hoping to save the life of the child who was the recipient,” he added.

After a few minutes he received the reply: “Hi, This is ******. Israel, thank you so much for saving my son. I cannot thank you enough. I am really excited to meet you too.”

Otmazgin said that at that moment “there was likely no one happier on the face of the planet than myself.” The two arranged for a video meeting the next day that quickly broke down into tears of joy.

“My son was born with a rare and debilitating physical ailment called SCID,” the mother said. “This disease prevents the body from properly developing an immune system. This means that even the tiniest and most insignificant bacteria or viruses can kill our child. Children like him are kept inside of a ‘vault’ in the hospital to make sure that they do not contract any illness. Their normal life expectancy is less than a year if a bone marrow donor cannot be found.”

The mother said the boy’s two older brothers were only a 50 percent marrow match, but the marrow database of 44 million registered donors showed Otamzgin was “a 100 percent match.”

The boy’s mother explained that after the marrow transplant his body responded well and there was an immediate improvement in his condition.

“Since then, he has contracted three separate illnesses that are common for young children and his body overcame the illnesses each time. This means that the transplant succeeded. This means that he is also partly your child. He is alive because of you and we have no way to say thank you,” she told Otmazgin, who said that at that point they were both in tears.

“I was a bit surprised that here I am in Israel, an ultra-Orthodox Jew, and I saved the life of a Muslim boy in the United States,” Otmazgin said. “After my initial surprise, I realized what kind of connection God made here – a connection of life and love between two people who in regular day-to-day life would likely never meet one another and if they did meet would most likely not like one another.”

“We all have dreams of what our children will grow to become. Now this family has a chance for their son to realize both his dreams and theirs.”

“I am an Israeli and I live in Israel, yet I saved the life of this young Arab boy in the United States. I am incredibly happy about being able to do so and I sincerely hope that my story will serve as a guide for the sanctity of life to people all over the world.”

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