Six weeks ago, Annie Lipsitz was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Now, the 27-year-old is fighting for her life. She desperately needs a life-saving bone marrow transplant.
Seeking a compatible donor, she has turned to the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Registry, the only Jewish registry in North America. Lipsitz, like other Jews of Ashkenazi descent, has a better chance of finding a match among members of her ethnic group.
Rosalee Keech of Montville, a member of the Pine Brook Jewish Center and the mother of Lipsitz’s college roommate, is organizing a community-wide drive for Lipsitz at locations in Montville and West Orange on Tuesday, Sept. 14. To be entered into the database requires just a cheek swab; no blood is drawn. Anyone who is already in the registry need not re-register.
Lipsitz has already organized drives in Atlanta and in Washington, DC, where she serves as legislative correspondent for Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D-Md.). Keech’s daughter, Hillary, has also organized a drive in New York City, where she is an interior designer.
“I’ve watched these kids grow up into contributing members of society,” said Rosalee Keech. “And as a mother and a grandmother, just thinking about the idea that she had to call her mom and say, ‘I went to see the doctor and I’ve been diagnosed with leukemia’ — I was devastated just hearing it from my daughter. Anything I can do to save her, and others like her, I will. This just hits very close to home for me.”
The Gift of Life Bone Marrow Registry started in West Orange nearly 20 years ago, when Jay Feinberg faced a similar diagnosis. He and his family turned to the community for help. Feinberg survived five years while a match was sought, and today he is executive director of the Gift of Life Foundation. It has over 170,000 people in the registry, has found matches for over 6,800 patients, and has facilitated over 2,100 transplants.
Feinberg recently celebrated the 15th anniversary of his transplant. “I wish the same for Annie and her family,” he said in a prepared statement.
The bone marrow drives will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 14, from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Pine Brook Jewish Center in Montville and at the Leon & Toby Cooperman JCC, Ross Family Campus, in West Orange.