Saving a life with the swab of a cheek

West Nyack – A quick swab of your cheek is all it may take to save a life. And you can do so on Sunday, May 19 at a bone marrow registry drive organized by New City Jewish Center’s Men’s Club at the Jewish Community Campus at 450 West Nyack Rd. in West Nyack.

The drive is being organized to help a New City man diagnosed with lymphoma find a matching bone marrow donor to help him survive the disease. The event will be held at the campus from 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. All those who do the quick cheek swab test will join more than 200,000 others in the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Registry. Gift of Life has made 9,876 matches and facilitated 2,577 transplants to date.

John Chargar has been undergoing chemotherapy treatment for several years, but those treatments had begun to fail him recently. In looking for ways to revitalize the synagogue’s semi-annual blood drive, Mens’ Club members decided a bone marrow registry component would be a good addition and could potentially help Chargar, a longtime friend and member, who had only recently become a grandfather.

The move to the campus from the synagogue was done in hopes of expanding the drive and reaching more people, according to Don Arnstein, who is spearheading the effort for NCJC. Organizers felt that there was a better chance of reaching more people who fit the donor profile at the campus than at just one synagogue, according to Arnstein. As well, there is a greater chance of finding a match among those who shares similar genetic heritage, so the campus seemed like the logical place to reach out to a broad swath of Rockland’s Jewish community, he said.

“It’s good to have members of the Jewish faith in the donor bank, who can save the lives of other Jews,” said Arnstein. “We’re doing this for John, but we want it to help others, too.”

Arnstein reached out to campus CEO David Kirschtel, who gladly came on board. “This is really just a logical extension of what the campus is here for — the entire community,” Kirschtel of the 135,000 square-foot campus, which houses JCC Rockland, the Jewish Federation of Rockland County, the Rockland Jewish Academy, Rockland Jewish Family Service, Hadassah and the State of Israel Bonds. “We want other organizations to know that it is their home, too, and there for them to use.”

Those wishing to participate must be between 18-60 years old, in good health, meet the guidelines and wiling to donate to any patient worldwide when needed. To further help, the registry asks people to consider donating $60 to help cover the cost of testing.