After thousands swabbed to find donor, woman receives bone marrow from brother

After thousands swabbed to find donor, woman receives bone marrow from brother

No perfect match found despite 16,200 people being tested in bid to save Roni Cohen, who is said to be recovering well after treatment

Roni Cohen. (screen capture: Hadashot news)
Roni Cohen. (screen capture: Hadashot news)

A woman who captured the nation’s heart when she was diagnosed with leukemia a month before her wedding was finally given a life-saving bone marrow transplant from her brother, after a public search that tested over 16,000 people failed to find a perfect match.

Roni Cohen, 27, became a cause celebre since her case went public, with celebrities, news stations and social media joining in the efforts to recruit a suitable donor.

Although Cohen’s older sibling is only a 50 percent match, the treatment was carried out six weeks ago using a method that still enables her brother to be a donor, her family said in a statement Sunday.

“Roni underwent a pluripotent bone marrow transplant, a newer implantation method that is also possible with lower match percentages,” the family said.

“There is less experience with this method and therefore doctors still prefer a full transplant,” the statement noted.

Initial tests results have been normal and Cohen is back at home, recovering from the process. Doctors will continue to monitor her progress over the coming year and she will have further tests in the future.

“It still really moves us that so many people still ask about Roni’s welfare,” her family said. “It is amazing to see how many people took Roni to heart, now that we are a little bit calmer.”

Cohen was diagnosed with leukemia in July, just ahead of her wedding. Her health had suddenly deteriorated. Small lesions formed on her face, her neck muscles cramped, glands in her neck swelled, as did the roof of her mouth, and blue marks appeared on her legs.

Roni Cohen, left, was diagnosed with leukemia and is seeking a bone marrow donor, with fiancé Bar Armon, 29, from Hod Hasharon, seen in a Hadashot television news broadcast on August 12, 2018. (Hadashot screen capture)

Her family and the Ezer Mizion nonprofit, which runs the biggest bone marrow registry in Israel and the Jewish world, began a campaign to find a match and a potential cure, with the most likely donor being somebody who is of half Yemenite and half Moroccan extraction.

In August, as part of a day-long event, Ezer Mizion opened 30 stations at malls, the airport and other locations around the country to swab as many possible as possible. The group posted a message from Cohen’s family on Facebook that said there was a “high turnout.”

According to Hebrew media reports, in total some 16,200 people were swabbed to find a donor.

Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich, who is from the matching ethnic group, was among those to get his cheek swabbed to join the database. Joining the database as a potential donor involves a simple swab of one’s saliva.

Hundreds of thousands of Israelis are descended from Yemenite Jewish immigrants, but only a fraction of the Israeli public has registered as bone marrow donors.

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