‘Why Not Help?’: Meet Bone Marrow Donor Alex Kikis

May 10, 2018 | by Letisia Marquez

When Alex Kikis was asked to donate his bone marrow stem cells to a cancer patient he had never met, Kikis knew instinctively he would donate.
“Jews have a saying: ‘If you save one life, it’s like you saved the whole world,’” said Kikis, a 38-year-old Russian native who moved to Israel when he was 10. “Why not help if possible?”
In Israel, Kikis said bone marrow donation is strongly encouraged. Every person who joins the Israeli military is entered into a bone marrow registry — that’s how Kikis became part of Be The Match roughly 20 years ago.
“If someone is a match for someone, they don’t usually refuse,” said Kikis, who now works as a manufacturing specialist for Intel in Kiriat Gat, Israel, and is the father of four young children.

Reaching Out

Two years after his donation, however, Kikis was a bit hesitant when Be The Match once again contacted him. The patient he had helped, Gary Stromberg, a former music industry executive and film producer, wanted to connect with Kikis and thank him for the donation.
“It wasn’t that I didn’t want to know him or communicate with him,” Kikis said. “I did something right and I didn’t want anything in return for that good deed.”
Stromberg was disappointed that Kikis didn’t respond initially but he still felt grateful.
“What I started to do was to condition myself to accept that his man gave me a gift and I should just be grateful and accept that,” Stromberg said.

Contact

When a Be The Match representative told Stromberg that Kikis had not replied to their request, Stromberg asked if there was anything else he could do. The representative told him that he could write his donor a short letter.
Stromberg wrote that he appreciated Kikis’ donation and wanted to connect.
Kikis received the letter and decided to respond. He understood it was important for Stromberg to connect with him.
“I didn’t feel comfortable at first but then I relaxed,” he added.
Stromberg found Kikis on Facebook and sent him messages via Facebook. It’s been difficult for the pair to communicate because Kikis’ first language is Hebrew (his second language is Russian), and he speaks limited English. Kikis’ wife, Larisa, has been the person largely communicating with Stromberg.

How to Save a Life

Kikis and Stromberg had never actually talked, so both looked forward to meeting at City of Hope’s 42nd Annual Bone Marrow Reunion last Friday. For Stromberg, it was the opportunity to let Kikis know how much he appreciates the lifesaving donation.
“I have two children who continue to have a father thanks to Alex,” Stromberg, 76, said as he held back tears during a recent interview. “I want to let him know that. My children would like to thank him too.
“Alex saved my life for no apparent reason,” Stromberg added. “He didn’t get anything out of this. He just did it out of his kindness and generosity.”

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