Edward Wolfman spent a year on the search for the ultimate mensch — a bone marrow donor who could cure his leukemia and save his life. In the spring of 2019, Wolfman finally got the call; a match had appeared on the bone marrow registry.
Wolfman had reached out to the Chronicle during his search for a match, but before it could be reported, he found a donor from across the Atlantic. On May 16, Wolfman received his life-saving transfusion and is now on the road to recovery.
Wolfman, a Racine native, had his bar mitzvah at Beth Israel Sinai Congregation of Racine and is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Wolfman has lived in Los Angeles for more than 40 years, now with his wife and two adult children, both adopted.
The donor is a man from England. Once the match was made, the donor went through a physical examination and had a procedure done to extract the marrow. A courier then took the marrow from England to Los Angeles.
Interested in registering as a potential donor? More questions? Contact the Icla da Silva Foundation, Inc at 217-840-8302. Or visit: Join.BeTheMatch.org.
“It’s kind of weird that there’s someone walking around in England who went to a lot of trouble to save my life for no reward other than the reward of saving my life … when you define mitzvah, that’s it,” Wolfman said in an interview.
Searching for a match
Before receiving the donor marrow, Wolfman spent almost a year undergoing intensive chemotherapy, which doctors hoped would eradicate the disease. However, the treatments were unsuccessful, necessitating a bone marrow transplant for Wolfman’s survival.
Wolfman first turned to the bone marrow registry a year ago, but his initial search for a match was unsuccessful. As Wolfman waited for a match, he remained hopeful, and had “a sense that it will all work out,” he said in an interview before finding a donor.
His hopefulness led him to begin a campaign to find donors, and he turned to Jewish communities for help. Bone marrow donors must share a similar ethnic background with the recipient, and Wolfman needed a donor of Ashkenazi Jewish or Eastern European descent. He told his story to Jewish publications around the country and urged people to join the bone marrow registry.
“They feel good for life. Someone out there is living because of their efforts,” he said of donors.
Wolfman’s connection with the Jewish community in Los Angeles became stronger throughout his struggle with the disease, he said. His rabbi mentioned him at every service and encouraged congregants to register on the donor list. Congregants drove him to the hospital at times when he was unable to drive, he said.
Now, a few weeks after the transplant, he remains in a weakened state.
“I really just want to get my life back… it’s like I’m a shell of myself,” Wolfman said.
Yet his struggles have reminded him that he is recovering, and he is grateful that he is going through this process. Throughout the ordeal, Wolfman has remained hopeful, from praying for a match to working towards becoming his old self after cancer.
The rules of bone marrow donation stipulate that the donor and recipient must remain anonymous for at least two years. If Wolfman could meet his donor, he would tell him, “You saved my life, and I owe you a lifetime of gratitude,” he said.