Thousands get swabbed in race to save bride-to-be with leukemia
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Match needed from someone of Yemenite-North African heritage

Thousands get swabbed in race to save bride-to-be with leukemia

At 30 stations nationwide, people with Yemenite and Moroccan ethnicity get tested as potential donors for Roni Cohen, 27, slated to be married next month

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

Thousands of Israelis gave samples of their saliva at stations around the country to try to save the life of a bride-to-be who is desperately seeking a donor who can help her beat leukemia.

Roni Cohen, 27, was diagnosed with the disease last month, just ahead of her wedding.

Her family and the Ezer Mizion nonprofit, which runs the biggest bone marrow registry in Israel and the Jewish world, have been racing to find a match and a potential cure, most likely from somebody who is of half Yemenite and half Moroccan extraction.

On Sunday, Ezer Mizion opened 30 stations at malls, the airport and other locations around the country to swab as many possible matched as possible. The group posted a message from Cohen’s family on Facebook that said there had been a “high turnout.”

“We are all going to sleep tonight with large hopes in our hearts — that what we’re searching for was found today! Someone to save the life of our Roni,” a Facebook page dedicated to finding a match for Cohen posted Sunday night.

According to Hebrew media reports, some 10,000 people were swabbed at the stations over the day.

תמונות ראשונות מעמדות ההתרמה שפתוחות ברחבי כל הארץ.שימו לב!!! כדי למנוע חוסר נעימות, בתחנות ניתן להצטרף רק שילוב של…

Posted by ‎EZER MIZION – עזר מציון‎ on Sunday, 19 August 2018

Cohen has become a cause celebre since her case reached the public last week. Celebrities, news stations, social media, all joined the efforts to recruit a suitable donor.

Cohen comes from a Yemenite and North African family, and only people with Yemenite or combined Yemenite-North African heritage can donate the marrow she needs.

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.

Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich swabs his mouth to find out whether he is a suitable donor to save leukemia patient Roni Cohen on August 19, 2018. (Screen capture:: Hadashot news

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.

Cohen herself spent Sunday in the hospital receiving a chemotherapy treatment, but her brother said that the massive outpouring of support lifted her spirits, and he hoped that by the time the current round of treatment was finished they would have found a suitable donor.

Roni Cohen, 27, 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)

It will take two weeks until the results of the swabbing are received and Cohen will know whether or not she has found her lifesaving donor.

Cohen and her fiance Bar Armon, 29, have been together for four years. Armon proposed to Cohen on vacation in the Philippines earlier this year and the two are slated to be married on September 17 in Hadera.

Roni Cohen, right, who 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)

Several few weeks ago, Cohen’s health 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.

The family doctor sent them straight to the emergency room, telling them only that he was “worried.” A blood test confirmed that Cohen had leukemia.

Roni Cohen, right, who 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)

“Our only chance to find a donor is to ask everyone to go and get checked by giving just a sample of their spit. That’s all it takes,” Armon told Hadashot news last week. “I just want to marry her already. I want this whole thing to be behind us and to get back to our lives.”

A list of the locations for joining the registry can be found on Ezer Mizion’s website or via a hotline the organization set up at 1-800-236-236.

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