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Friday, November 15, 2019

(Courtesy of Ezer Mizion) Flying 35,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean is not an easy job! But Ofer had already spent 17 years as a fighter pilot in the IDF defending the State of Israel. In 2003 he left the reserves and joined El-Al full time. “Most people don’t realize that being a pilot is a very dangerous profession. When you know it is dangerous you are safe but when you think it is easy, when you’re a cowboy, you are unsafe! A pilot’s job is to always be alert in case something happens.” Ofer always remained alert with hundreds of travelers under his wing, quite literally!

But after 16 years of flying for El-Al, Ofer started to feel fatigued. “It became difficult for me to walk up with steps to the plane from the tarmac. I thought I was starting to get old or out of shape.” But the truth was far more devastating: after routine blood tests, Ofer was diagnosed with leukemia!

“I was immediately rushed to the hospital. When I arrived they couldn’t even find bone marrow inside my body for a biopsy. I had very little bone marrow left in my body.”

Ofer started to think about his future. He thought, “Will I ever be able to fly again? Will I be able to see my children again? Will I get to meet my grandchildren?”

“It was a very difficult time in my life. I was very lucky to have the best doctors in Israel.” Shortly after Jan 1, 2017, Ofer was told that Ezer Mizion had a perfect bone marrow match for him! He was thrilled, but still very hesitant. “I knew I was not yet out of the woods. I was on a new medication and I was starting to feel better. I did not know if I wanted to risk a transplant with possible complications.” Ofer decided to take a vacation to Moscow. He had always traveled the world and Moscow was one place he had never visited but had always wanted to see. “The doctors told me if I get even a small virus I can forget about the whole transplant. I put my faith in God and said, if it is meant to be, then I will return and have the transplant.”

On Feb. 28, Ofer landed back in Tel Aviv, and March 1 started his preparations for a transplant.

Pushing through all the negative thoughts, Ofer decided to fight. He was absolutely determined to overcome this illness and would go to any lengths to get better.

A short six weeks later Ofer was released from the hospital and returned to his family.

David Bugoslavski was in the middle of his military service on Mt. Hermon when he received a call from Ezer Mizion that he is a perfect match for a cancer patient. Ironically, David wasn’t supposed to have his phone on him while he was in the middle of active duty. Yet, as he explains, “fate thought otherwise.” He knew that Ezer Mizion needed him, and while he did not know Ofer personally, he jumped at the opportunity to save the pilot’s life.

Thanks to David’s transplant, Ofer is alive today. While the recovery process is slow and there has been some turbulence along the way, Ofer has his life back. One of Ofer’s dreams had always been to fly a Boeing Dreamliner. Unfortunately, due to his medical history, this dream will never come to fruition in his capacity as a pilot but he still loves to travel the world, even if he’s sitting in the back of the plane.

David was able to jump on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to save a life. Ofer was able to be the recipient of a special and unique kindness, having his life literally saved by someone else. As Ofer explained so beautifully, “David: without you, I wouldn’t be here... For me, you are part of the family.”

Ezer Mizion’s bone marrow registry has close to 1 million registrants, with over 550,000 of them IDF soldiers. At Ezer Mizion, no matter who you are or where you come from, your life matters. Ofer and David are just one example of the lifesaving mission of Ezer Mizion taking flight. At Ezer Mizion, unconditional love is not just a term thrown around, but a philosophy that is in the very DNA of the organization. As Dr. Bracha Zisser, director and founder of Ezer Mizion’s National Bone Marrow Registry says, “We have created a true connection of blood between two people who did not know each other at all up to that point. A connection that would not have happened without the unconditional immediate enlistment of David or, as Ofer called him, “my angel.”

Join Ezer Mizion on November 9 at Congregation Keter Torah in Teaneck at 7:30 p.m. for an Evening of Heroes: a beautiful musical Havdalah by Shulem Lemmer, meet real IDF heroes who have saved lives by donating their stem cells, and a fireside chat with Bret Stephens and Nachum Segal. Learn more about Ezer Mizion and RSVP for the “Evening of Hereos” by going to www.eveningofheroes.com, or contact Ryan Hyman, national director of development, at [email protected] or 718-853-8400 ext.109.