10-year-old with cancer sparks bone marrow recruitment drives in Great Neck

10-year-old with cancer sparks bone marrow recruitment drives in Great Neck
Legislator Ellen Birnbaum with members of the Gift of Life Registry and Temple Israel (Photo courtesy of the office of Legislator Ellen Birnbaum)

Last weekend several temples and Jewish centers in Great Neck took part in helping Elan Shademan, a 10-year-old boy battling to avoid leukemia, by hosting bone marrow and stem cell donor recruitment drives.

The donor drives were held on Saturday and Sunday at Temple Israel, Beth Hadassah Synagogue, the Mashadi Jewish Center and the Babylonian Jewish Center. The drives were on behalf of the Gift of Life Marrow Registry, working with community partners and Legislator Ellen Birnbaum (D-Great Neck).

“I am truly hopeful that we will find among our neighbors the person that can make a life-saving donation to Elan,” said Birnbaum.

Shademan and his family, who have some past ties to Great Neck, currently live in California.  Five months ago, he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer known as myelodysplastic syndromes, or MDS.  The disease is a result of the body failing to produce enough healthy, normal blood cells in the bone marrow.

To keep the disease from progressing to leukemia, specifically acute myelogenous leukemia, or AML, Shademan has been going through rounds of chemotherapy. According to statistics from cancer.net, the survival rate for a person under the age of 20 with AML is 67%, but Shademan also suffers from other genetic abnormalities, which warrants the need for new stem cells.

To complicate matters, Shademan’s ethnic background of a half-Ashkenazi and half-Sephardic mix narrows the list of potential donors.  Birnbaum implored community members to not only donate to Shademan’s Gift of Life Registry but to also get tested, which consists of a simple cheek swabbing.

“The Iranian-American communities on America’s coasts share strong cultural and family bonds,” said Birnbaum, “I implore Nassau County residents to heed this urgent appeal and be tested.”

“It’s one of the many upsetting stories that we hear, but don’t always take action on,” said Zach Kerwin, who attended the Temple Israel event. “I have participated in Gift of Life before, and it’s something that is so simple to do and could change somebody’s life, so why not?”

Though ethnicity and ancestral traits play an important role in finding a donor, Shademan’s registry asks anyone from ages 18 to 35 to help by getting tested. So far, Shademan’s registry has donations totaling a little over $85,000 from more than 3,000 donors across the country.

For more information on Shademan’s condition, or to sign up to be a potential donor match, visit https://www.giftoflife.org/dc/elan.

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