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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


January 17, 2014  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

Saving a life

Eckerd student donates stem cells to stranger
By BOB FRYER Jewish Press

Alison Roskopf in her hospital bed preparing for the stem cell procedure beneath a blanket given to her by the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation and signed by the organization’s staff members. Alison Roskopf in her hospital bed preparing for the stem cell procedure beneath a blanket given to her by the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation and signed by the organization’s staff members. The results won’t be known for a while, but on Monday, Jan. 13, Alison Roskoph, an Eckerd College senior and student board president of the college’s Hillel organization, just may have saved the life of a stranger by donating her stem cells to a man with leukemia.

She had to miss two days of classes, including one taught by Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, but rest assured, it was an excused absence. “He has told me that it was a good thing that I did for a stranger. He also told me it is a wonderful gift, and that he was proud,” Roskoph said.

It would never have happened had Roskoph not participated in a bone marrow donor registration drive that Eckerd Hillel organized in conjunction with the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation. The Boca Ratonbased organization encourages donor drives, particularly among Jews and other ethnic minorities in which the odds of finding a match are slimmer than for the general population.

Alison Roskoph Alison Roskoph When Roskoph got her cheek swabbed last year, she had no idea she would be a genetic match for a 57-yearold man with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia. On average 1 in 1,000 Gift of Life donors are asked to make an actual donation of marrow or stem cells every year.

“The Talmud says: ‘Whoever saves a single life, it is as if he or she has saved an entire world’” Rabbi Ed Rosenthal, executive director of Hillels of the Florida Suncoast, said earlier this month. “We at Eckerd Hillel are very proud that Alison will be able to help save a life, becoming a super mensch and performing an amazing mitzvah.”

Roskoph said the procedure was a bit painful, but certainly worth it. She was notified that she was a possible donor match around Thanksgiving. She received several blood tests locally to determine if she was a “full match.”

“I found out that I was a full match the first week of December. I was thrilled,” Roskoph said, “Right away, I received a packet of information and forms. The next week, I was flown to and from Washington, DC, for a day of physical exams. A couple days later, I found out that I passed the physical.”

Roskoph, 21, is majoring in Environmental Science with double minors in biology and psychology and hails from Twinsburg, OH.

Though she registered for a bone marrow donation, what was needed was a donation of Roskoph’s stem cells.

The Gift of Life foundation arranged for Roskoph to fly to Washington, DC, on Friday, Jan. 10, where she met her mother, Janice Roskoph, flown in by the foundation from her home in Ohio. Her mom stayed with her for the entire process. Each morning from Jan. 9-13 Roskoph received shots to boost her stem cell count and on Monday, Jan. 13, half an hour after her final shot, they hooked her up to two IVs – one took her blood and separated her stem cells out for donation to the man with leukemia and the other returned the blood to her body.

Roskoph said she was not allowed to move one arm for the entire four hours of the procedure.

“The other IV was in my hand, and that was a normal IV. ... I know that my veins normally do not like to cooperate, and in this case, that happened. My vein kept pushing the needle out of my body; so they had to keep pushing it back in. It was hard and painful not to move my arm for such a long period of time. I do, though, have a high pain tolerance,” Roskoph said after returning to St. Petersburg for classes. “It was not that bad though. After, I was just tired. It took a lot of energy, so I rested after, back at the hotel. I just have to take it easy for a week.”

She flew home the day after the procedure.

“It was wonderful to have my mom with me throughout this experience. She has expressed to me several times how proud she is of me. The shots that I was administered made me not feel my best, and she was there to remind me that it was okay to rest and relax,” Roskoph said. “She was not allowed back into the procedure room until after I was hooked up. At that time, she was very nervous. I have two older brothers, so naturally she is protective. She raised a strong and courageous young woman. I am happy to make her proud.”

As for the stem cell recipient, “All I can hope for is the man gets healthier and has a wonderful life,” Roskoph said. “Unfortunately for various reasons, I am unable to meet the recipient for at least a year. After that, we will see what the future holds.”

She hopes her story will inspire others to join the donor registry. “I encourage everyone to get swabbed to be registered in the donation bank. I am proud to represent my hometown, my family, and Eckerd College Hillel through this experience. I am glad that I am able to make a difference in others’ lives,” Roskoph said.

Information provided by Hillels of the Florida Suncoast was used in this report.

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