Survivor Stories



Ava Ceaser


Precious Ava Ceaser is 10 months old, and was diagnosed with a rare disease called Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH).  Ava has spent most of her life in hospitals in chemotherapy, and taking steroids. In spite of it all, she remains happy.  Both she and her loving family are determined to win this battle. Ava and thousands of patients like her, needed the Be The Match Registry to find a donor to give her a chance for a cure. Ava found her compatible donor and received her transplante in December of 2014.






Leslie Lance


“My donor knew nothing about me, except that I was a 24 year-old and if I didn’t get her cells quick I wasn’t going to make it. God called her to give to me. And because she was faithful I have life. I can’t explain how grateful we are to her”, said Leslie Lance moments before meeting her donor for the first time. Leslie Lance, 28, survived leukemia thanks to a bone marrow transplant. Leslie and her family will be forever thankful to her donor, Carmen Colom, who joined the Be The Match registry during one of the Icla da Silva Foundation’s marrow drives in Puerto Rico. Watch bellow the video of Leslie meeting her donor Carmen for the first time.





Rachell Souza


Rachell Souza, 9, wants to be a veterinarian. She lives with her family in Brazil and survived severe plastic anemia due to a bone marrow transplant. Rachell made her first trip abroad in September 2008. She came with her mother Izabel Veras from Brazil to New York City to meet a fellow Brazilian, the builder Jefferson Araújo, 27. It was a very special meeting, as Mr. Araújo is the bone marrow donor who’s saved Rachell’s life. Rachell met her donor for the first time during The Icla Da Silva Foundation’s fundraising dinner. It was an overwhelming night. “I’m very thankful to God, that gave me this opportunity. Saving your life was the most important thing I’ve ever done”, said Mr. Araújo, who joined the Be The Match registry during one of the foundation’s marrow drives in Boston, MA. Can you imagine how it feels, for a mother, to meet the person that saved her daughter’s life? Ms. Veras was speechless while she watched Rachell and Mr. Araújo hugging. One could only imagine what went through her mind in that moment. Nine years ago, Ms. Vera lost her son, 14-year old Romullo, who suffered from severe plastic anemia. After eight years looking for an unrelated bone marrow donor, Ms. Veras decided to get pregnant, hoping that the baby would be the perfect match for Romullo. Rachell was born and the exams immediately brought the good news: she was 100% compatible with her brother. Unfortunately, weeks later she was diagnosed with the same condition. “I thought, how can God make a miracle in half?”, remembers the mother. After ten years fighting his condition, Romullo passed away. But luckily Mr. Araújo joined the Be The Match registry and gave Rachell a second chance in life. You can watch bellow the video about Rachell and the unforgettable day she spent with her donor in Central Park, NY.





Cord Blood Transplant Saves Jennifer Jones Austin


Jennifer Jones Austin, 42, is a mother of two who’s survived leukemia. Shortly after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, and learning that without a bone marrow transplant her chances of survival were very slim, Jennifer’s family contacted The Icla da Silva Foundation. They needed support and help to find her a compatible bone marrow donor in the national registry. In just two months, Jennifer’s relatives and friends, supported by The Icla da Silva Foundation, organized more than 200 marrow drives and managed to add the astonishing number of 13,000 new potential donors to the registry. Jennifer didn’t find a match, but the campaigns organized on her name have given hope to thousand of patients in need, especially those within the African American community. Jennifer had an umbilical cord blood transplant at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital on March 2010 and is recovering well. You can watch Jennifer's emotional speech on the video bellow.





Bone Marrow Transplant Recipient Enjoys Life After Transplant and Looks Forward to College


Eight years ago, seventeen-year-old Eduardo Ramirez from Salinas, California almost had his life taken by leukemia. Today, he is celebrating almost five years cancer free, thanks to his life saving marrow transplant. He is enjoying life; playing soccer with his friends, dating a beautiful girl, and looking forward to attending the University of California-- Berkeley in the fall. Eduardo was ten-years-old when he suddenly felt a lot of pain in his legs and experienced a high fever. He was immediately rushed to the hospital and after several blood tests; the doctors informed his family that he had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Eduardo received chemotherapy for two and a half years and the disease went into remission. However, six months later he was rushed back to the hospital. He had relapsed and his only chance to survive was to receive a bone marrow transplant. His doctors searched on the National Marrow Donor Program (now the Be the Match Registry) for an unrelated bone marrow donor and a few weeks later they notified the family that a 100% match was found and that the bone marrow transplant was scheduled for December of 2004. His donor was Carlos Trochez, a deacon from Woodside, New York. He registered as a potential bone marrow donor in 1999 at a bone marrow drive organized by the Icla da Silva Foundation at his church. Carlos donated his bone marrow, which was transported to California where Eduardo received his life saving transplant. Two years after his bone marrow transplant, the Icla da Silva Foundation arranged for Eduardo and his family to come to New York and have the immense pleasure to meet his marrow donor for the very first time. Both met at the Foundation’s Annual Fundraising event in 2006 and continue to keep in touch. On June 16, his marrow donor, Carlos Trochez, will be attending Eduardo’s high school graduation in California. Today, Carlos, originally from Colombia, considers Eduardo a son and keeps in contact with him almost every week. When Carlos was recently asked about Eduardo, he smiled proudly and said, "That boy now loves Colombian food."





Marrow Transplant Recipient Met His Life-Saving Donor at The Icla da Silva Foundation's 16th Annual Fundraising Dinner & Dance

New York, October 3, 2008. It was an emotional moment when marrow recipient and now former non-hodgkins patient, Mr. Robert Jewell, from Cheasepeake, Virginia met for the first time his life-saving marrow donor, Romery Granado from the Bronx, New York.

 

This emotional meeting took place at the Icla da Silva Foundation's 16th Anniversary Dinner & Dance on September 24, 2008 at the Tavern on the Green Restaurant in New York City.






Leukemia Survivor Speaks to Over 200 Guests at The Icla da Silva Foundation Annual Fundraising Awards Reception

Over 200 guests, including patients, supporters, consul generals, doctors and members of the business community, attended the Icla da Silva Foundation Annual Fundraising Awards Reception last September 30, 2004. Melissa Rozon, leukemia survivor, spoke about her experience and how the Foundation was a great support to her.





The Icla da Silva Foundation Helps Honduras Patient Reunite With His Family

Daniel Menjivar is a 15-year-old boy from Honduras and he is currently being treated at John Hopkins in Baltimore of Graft-versus-host disease as a result of a complication from a bone marrow transplant. It has been six years since the last time that Daniel has seen his siblings.

Most recently, both his father and three other siblings received the visa to come to the United States with the help of the Foundation. The family has been split apart for the last seven years and they should be together to help in Daniel’s recovery.






Leukemia Patient Shares her Story and Requests Help to Find a Compatible Marrow Donor

Caroline Clark is 21 and has Leukemia. She was attending her last year in college when she found out that she had leukemia. After her first complete month of hospitalization, she was told that the only thing that could potentially cure her fatal disease was a bone marrow transplant. Both of her parents and two sisters were tested, but none were anywhere near of being a close match for a safe transplant. “I thought my options were closed and that I had to accept my fate,” said Caroline.

 

Caroline began doing research on the Internet about her disease and bone marrow transplants. While on her search, she stumbled upon the Icla da Silva Foundation’s website and as what she thought was a last resort, took a chance and sent an email explaining her situation and asking for help, even if it was just information. “To my surprise, I had a response the very next day from Airam. When I was done reading the email, I began to cry because I couldn't believe that it was true, that I didn't have to just wait for my chemotherapy cycles to be done and wait to see if I die or not, and that his organization was willing to help me with anything that I needed. I couldn't even believe that we didn't have to pay any more for the HLA tests to be performed.” said Caroline in tears. Because there were no perfect match donors for Caroline within her family, so with the support of the Icla da Silva Foundation, bone marrow drives were held at Caroline’s church, with some of her old friends in Boston, Washington Heights, at her college in Utica, NY, and in Florida so that other families and friends could be tested. From all the drives that have been held about 400 people, mostly minorities, signed up to the NMDP Registry so that if they are not a match for Caroline, they can save somebody else's life that is awaiting for a donor like her. “It scares me to think of where I would be had I not found the Icla da Silva foundation, or worse, where all of the people whose life has been saved by this organization would be.

 

We need more support in the minority community to help people like me who are awaiting for their life saving donor.” explained Caroline. And she ended her presentation by saying: “With any luck, more people will get involved with the Icla da Silva Foundation, and maybe take them as an example and want to help out on their own, more people will become informed about bone marrow transplants and how easy it is for someone to save another's life, and maybe one day I can attend an event like this meeting my own donor. With everything that the Icla da Silva foundation has done for me already, I feel that I owe them so much already, my never ending gratitude, and my help to help others. ”






Leukemia Survivor Meets Her Bone Marrow Donor for the Very First Time

On Wednesday, November 12, 2003, Elizabeth Howarth, 18, of Ohio, had her first opportunity to thank Sandra Fernandez, 37, of New York City for donating the “Gift of Life” that saved her life. Although they had never met, Elizabeth Howarth has been kept alive by healthy stem cells that were donated by Sandra Fernandez. Sandra joined the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) Registry at a bone marrow drive organized by The Icla da Silva Foundation at her church in 1996. The drive was for a young Hispanic girl from New York who was suffering with leukemia. “I felt I could make a difference in someone's life,” she recalled. Elizabeth Howarth was just like any other 16-year-old girl until 2001 when she was diagnosed with leukemia. To survive, Elizabeth would need a stem cells transplant to help her body make new, healthy marrow. Stem cells are immature cells that can develop into red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. For the transplant to take place, Elizabeth needed to find a matching donor. Because the characteristics that determine whether a donor and a patient match are inherited, the best chance of finding a matched donor is from a sibling. However, 70 percent of patients do not find a suitable match within their own families. Although Elizabeth has a sister, she was not a match, so Elizabeth needed an unrelated donor for this life-saving transplant. Elizabeth and her family turned to the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) for help. A search in the NMDP registry identified one compatible donor out of the more then 5 millions registered. The donor was Sandra, a Hispanic woman from Manhattan, New York. Although Sandra was not a match to the Hispanic girl that she registered for, she was willing to help anyone in need. Elizabeth received her transplant in January of 2002 in Ohio. She is now living a healthy life and is currently attending her first year of college. Because of confidentiality issues, the donor and patient can not meet until one year after the transplant. So both Sandra and Elizabeth had to wait until this special day. The special meeting took place at a special cocktail reception at the Consulate General of Venezuela where Board Members, staff, volunteers, patients and friends of the Icla da Silva Foundation shared this special moment. Our efforts continues so more patients will have the opportunity to receive the “Gift of Life” that will save their lives.





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