TORONTO — The Toronto Jewish community has always responded enthusiastically when asked to come out to be tested as bone marrow donors.
We remember drives for Alison Atlas, Jay Feinberg, Audi Stanley – when people of all religious streams, all social groupings and all ages lined up patiently in the hopes of helping one of our own. Once again, the call is going out.
Jonathan Grossman, 46, is a self-described “software techie.” In February, he was diagnosed with idiopathic myelofibrosis, a disease in which the bone marrow no longer produces red or white blood cells, or platelets. There is no treatment or cure, except for a bone marrow transplant.
A bone marrow testing drive, under the aegis of Canadian Blood Services and Gift of Life, takes place Sunday, April 26, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Adath Israel Congregation. Eligible donors must be between the ages of 18 and 60, and in general good health. Unlike earlier drives, no blood is taken at the drive, only swabs from the inner cheeks.
Ideally, six matching genetic markers are necessary for a bone marrow donation to be successful. The best chance, then, is either from the patient’s family, or, if there is no family match – as in Grossman’s case – from someone who comes from the same general geographic area.
Grossman said that originally doctors felt that his gastro-intestinal symptoms were a sign of Crohn’s disease, which several members of his family have. A long, frustrating course of blood tests at Toronto’s Princess Margaret Hospital this past February confirmed that he has idiopathic myelofibrosis. Since then, he has had weekly blood transfusions to keep him alive.
“It was a shock,” Grossman said. However, he said, his wife, Julie, and his family took it as “a call to arms. We were not blinded like a deer in the headlights – we were motivated to do something. That’s what our family is like.”
His daughter, Jessica, a student at the University of Western Ontario, has a Facebook group, to get information out to the public and to look for possible donors. He also has a younger son, Jason. Both children – and Grossman himself – are graduates of Bialik Hebrew Day School.
Julie Grossman, a clinical manager at Baycrest Hospital, has organized the bone marrow testing drive at Adath Israel. She said that she has arranged for six lead volunteers to manage the event, so that things will run smoothly.