California Father Meets Bone Marrow Donor Who Saved His Life

Boca Raton, FL – A California father of two had the videoconferencing call of a lifetime when he finally met and spoke with the selfless man who flew from Israel to the United States to donate bone marrow that saved his life. Despite being separated by the Atlantic Ocean and amid travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the donor-recipient pair were eager to connect virtually during a session coordinated by Gift of Life Marrow Registry on May 12.

Jose Luna, a 43-year old welder from Stockton was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia after noticing bruises every time he bumped into something. His only hope of treating this rare disorder, in which the body stops producing enough new blood cells, would be a marrow transplant, which he ultimately received at Stanford Health Care.

“When I got my diagnosis, I was really confused and didn’t know what to think,” said Luna. “I was happy to know that someone had the willingness to be my donor after none of my five siblings were a match.”

Donor Gad Ben Dov was visiting his wife’s family in Woodland Hills, Calif. in December 2016 when he heard about a donor recruitment drive organized by Gift of Life for a young boy who needed a transplant. Without hesitation, he agreed to be swabbed as a potential match. A few months later he was indeed a match, but it was for Luna. Ben Dov, who had returned to his home in Israel, travelled back to the U.S. leaving behind his wife and newborn son to help a stranger in need.

“I felt a mixture of excitement and a bit of confusion about what the process would be like, but mainly that I was being offered a one-time opportunity that I could not miss—to save someone’s life,” said Ben Dov. “This was an amazing experience and it’s crazy to think that someone is able to continue living their life with their family and friends as usual because of the donation. I carry this in my heart every day.”

After the required wait time of at least one year that is obligated by medical anonymity laws, and with a spate of friends and family glued to their screens to witness the moment, Ben Dov and Luna were finally revealed to one another. With big smiles, they waved to each other and an instant friendship was born, along with an acknowledgement that their respective large families—consisting of a combined four children and 13 siblings between them—had just gotten bigger.

“I feel truly grateful that you gave me a second chance because after my transplant, I learned that my wife was pregnant,” said Luna

“Amid, the coronavirus pandemic, we have been working tirelessly to overcome challenges to ensure that collections continue so that critical transplants are not delayed, said Gift of Life Marrow Registry Founder and CEO Jay Feinberg. “Moments like this one, where we get to witness the extraordinary outcome of someone donating to save a life, make it all worthwhile.”

Since its start in 1991, Gift of Life Marrow Registry has grown to more than 374,000 individuals who have volunteered to donate blood stem cells or bone marrow to save a life. To date, Gift of Life has facilitated over 17,800 matches for those with leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell, and nearly 100 other diseases, resulting in 3,641 transplants. For more details, please contact Edwige Buteau at ebuteau@giftoflife.org.

About Gift of Life Marrow Registry
Gift of Life Marrow Registry is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization headquartered in Boca Raton, Fla. The organization, established in 1991, is dedicated to saving lives by facilitating bone marrow and blood stem cell transplants for patients with leukemia, lymphoma, and other blood-related diseases. www.giftoflife.org