Two years ago, Stuart Schwartz was already well known in the Ottawa area as the popular host of the Majic 100 morning radio show, as well as the home game announcer for the Ottawa Senators.
Stuntman Stu, as he is known, also appears at many local community events and charity fundraisers. So he had the support of a large fan base, in addition to his own family and friends, when he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2016 and chose to share both his diagnosis and his journey publicly.
When, after undergoing aggressive treatment, it became apparent that Schwartz would need a bone marrow transplant – and soon – his medical team searched both locally and across Canada for a match, but none was found.
They then reached out to Ezer Mizion, a non-profit organization that manages the largest international bone marrow registry, and found a perfect match.
David Levi, a 50-year-old Israeli tour company manager from Yahud, Israel, had almost forgotten the day, nearly a decade earlier, when his older sister had convinced him to go along when she registered to be a bone marrow donor. They had both given DNA samples that were kept in the “bank,” one of which was matched to Schwartz.
“After a few weeks, she told me I am a perfect match and asked if I would be a donor,” said Levi. He answered immediately that he would. “I didn’t even ask my wife before I said ‘yes,’ because I felt that it is my body and my decision,” he said.
The process of donating was, according to Levi, very easy and painless. First, he had daily injections for four days “to grow the white blood cells.” On the fifth day, he went to the hospital and was hooked up to a machine for about 6½ hours to extract his bone marrow. Two days later, the transplant took place.
“I asked them not to tell me about the patient. The only thing I wanted to know was whether it was successful,” said Levi.
It was successful. Schwartz’s life was saved and he wanted to meet the donor, so he asked Ezer Mizion to arrange a meeting. Urged by his wife to agree to the get together because it might encourage other people to become donors, Levi gave his consent and allowed Ezer Mizion to facilitate the reunion.
At the Ottawa airport on March 19, the emotional encounter took place between Schwartz and Levi, two men who under any other circumstance would probably never have met, but are now connected by their shared DNA. They embraced and each one called the other a hero.
The following evening, Schwartz took Levi and his family (his wife and two children accompanied him on the trip) to an Ottawa Senators game. “The game was overwhelming,” said Schwartz. “They gave a standing ovation for both of us at the game.”
The men plan to keep in touch and Schwartz, who has never been to Israel, is hoping to visit the country with his family sometime soon. He also is hoping that their story will encourage people to register to become donors. He has partnered with Ezer Mizion to create Stu’s Pool, a dedicated pool of donors who financially sponsor bone marrow testing.
“If you have any hesitation, look at me,” said Schwartz. “I am alive today because of this man and this organization. If not for this man and his generosity, I would not be here.”