Joseph Mandel (recipient-left) and Nevo Segal (donor-right)
Nevo Segal and his younger sister, Mol, were driving to a Passover celebration in their native Israel, when she received a cell phone call from the bone marrow registry.
Weeks before, she was told that her bone marrow seemed to be a suitable match for a patient awaiting a transplant. Now, however, she learned there appeared to be an even closer match: her brother. “She passed me the phone,” recalls Segal with a smile.
Both siblings enrolled in the donor registry while in the Israel army. Enlisting as a donor is not required, but military service is mandatory. Since the army joined ranks with Ezer Mezion, the Israel Health Support Organization that includes the world’s largest Jewish Bone Marrow Donor Registry, donor enlistment has grown, says Segal.
He signed up for the registry in 2006 when he enlisted in the Israel Defense Force at age 18 ½, serving three years in its intelligence division. Though he didn’t receive the call to donate until he was 22, “there was no hesitation” in following through, he said. “I think that one cannot refuse an offer to help save someone’s life.”
His sister initially was disappointed that she could not be the donor, yet quickly was swept up in the family’s pride over her brother’s donation.
After Segal underwent thorough testing in a hospital close to his home in Ramat Hasharon (near Tel Aviv), his bone marrow stem cells were harvested and transported to City of Hope.
Following military service, Segal traveled around the world providing technical support for a firm specializing in digital mapping. Now 25, he is living in England, working on “music computing” degree at the University of London.
Segal resists the notion that he is some sort of hero for being a donor. “I think that what I did was just a small part of the chain organized by medical centers around the world. I believe that the people working in these medical centers like City of Hope deserve all the credit.”
Still, he admits, “Knowing that even in the slightest way you helped save a life is a great feeling.”
Since the donation, Segal often thought of the patient whose body was fueled by his blood, and wondered whether he had conquered the disease. He was relieved to recently learn that his recipient is thriving. “I just can’t wait to finally meet him and his family,” said Segal. After the reunion, he and his parents have been invited to join them for Sabbath dinner.
At the time of the donation, Segal said he knew “practically nothing” about the patient other than he was an older man. “Everything was kept discrete.”
Segal still treasures the letter of gratitude he received from the recipient and his family, and was particularly moved by one sentence in the letter.
“It said I’m in their prayers every day.”