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Life-saving stem cell donor Zak Blumer, left, meets his recipient, Joel Wolpe, for the very first time before a Florida Panthers hockey game Nov. 16, thanks to Gift of Life Marrow Registry and Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. (Bancroft Creative Group)
Bancroft Creative Group
An Ohio State University graduate student who donated life-saving stem cells finally got the opportunity to meet and learn the identity of his transplant before the Florida Panthers faced off against the New York Rangers at the BB&T Center Nov. 16. Gift of Life Marrow Registry and Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center arranged the meeting on Hockey Fights Cancer Night.
The donor, Zak Blumer , 23, a materials science and engineering graduate student and musician from Pataskala, Ohio, joined the registry during a swab drive by his brother’s fraternity, AEPi, while he was an Ohio University undergraduate in 2013.
The stem cell recipient, Joel Wolpe , 72, a retired attorney from Coconut Grove, Fla., who has three grown sons, was diagnosed with Adult acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in 2016. After undergoing chemotherapy, he was able to receive a stem cell transplant at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center in Miami in 2018.
“I am so thankful to meet you and so thankful to be given this opportunity,” Blumer told Wolpe after they met. “I don’t think what I did is that difficult. I am thankful for Gift of Life for making this happen.”
“I cannot begin to thank Zak and Gift of Life for being here,” said Wolpe. “We go through life and we think all the things we experience day-to-day are so important and most of them aren’t, but when you realize you have two months to live unless you get treatment and you won’t live more than a couple of years if you don’t get a transplant, and they’ve got to find someone, somewhere who is a match for you, you realize what’s important. You realize there are really good people in this world, like Zak. I keep saying to Zak: thank you is not enough. God willing I’ll be here a long time and he and I will get to know each other.”
Since its start in 1991, Gift of Life Marrow Registry has grown to more than 352,000 individuals who have volunteered to donate blood stem cells or bone marrow to save a life. To date, Gift of Life has facilitated over 16,900 matches for those with leukemia, lymphoma, sickle cell, and nearly 100 other diseases, resulting in more than 3,525 transplants.