fbpx
Skip to main content
She Battled Cancer, and Almost Didn’t Make It

Watch a Cancer Patient Finally Meet her Guardian Angel, the Girl Who Donated her Bone Marrow

Every year, the Icla da Silva Foundation hosts their Hope Gala in NYC. The highlight of the evening is the first time meeting between a patient and their life-saving bone marrow donor. The meeting happens on stage, in front of many supporters, most of whom are crying as the patient and donor share their story.

You can read about the Hope Gala here, but this tells the story of one of those patients…and their matching donor.


The Patient – Stephanie Cisne

When Stephanie was a freshman in college, she fainted for no apparent reason. Her friends got her up and took her to the ER. The doctors checked that she didnlt have a concussion, and said that she was just malnourished.

Over the next few weeks, Stephanie continued to feel weak. She came close to fainting a few more times, so she went in for a check-up.

After reviewing her bloodwork, the doctor sent her to a cancer specialist.

On March 10, 2014, Stephanie was diagnosed with AML (acute myeloid leukemia), with an FLT 3 mutation. The cancer was very aggressive. She was hospitalized immediately.

An FLT 3 mutation meant that her body was actually encouraging the growth of the leukemia cells.

The oncologist said that she would need a bone marrow transplant, as soon as possible, in order to survive.

Her family began working with the Icla da Silva Foundation and we immediately started organizing marrow drives.

Fortunately, a matching donor was identified very quickly. On August 6, 2014, Stephanie received her bone marrow transplant.

She Almost Didn’t Make It

But her journey wasn’t over. Many complications followed the transplant.

She battled serious infections and septic shock. One leg was on the verge of amputation. Stephanie had developed a life-threatening liver disease, followed by kidney failure.

Then her body went into a coma. They weren’t sure she would wake up. The doctors gave her 72 hours.

Small Actions – Big Results

Fortunately, Stephanie is a survivor. She took her battles head-on and never showed fear. She is now cancer-free, thanks to her doctors…and her life-saving bone marrow donor.

When we asked her what she would tell people who were considering joining the registry, she reminded us that “small actions can have big results”.

Stephanie explained to us, “That small gesture of swabbing your cheek, to see if you are a match for someone, will literally change your life. When you go through a donation, when you utilize the power you have to save a life, you gain a connection with a complete stranger. You will have made a difference in someone else’s life. You would touch an entire family.”

“You will give the gift of life to a long list of friends and relatives that you never even knew existed.”


The Donor – Crystal Dozier

Crystal was on the other side of the country when she joined the registry in 2007. There was a blood drive at her school and representatives from Be The Match were at that blood drive to sign people up for the registry.

Crystal came to donate blood and she was inspired by another opportunity to help people, so she joined the registry.

In the summer of 2014, while at lunch with her mother and sister, she received the call that she matched a patient in need. Crystal agreed to donate her bone marrow.

What Was the Donation Process Like?

Crystal explains that she did a lot of health-related interviews over the phone, followed by a number of blood tests and screens. In addition to checking that she was the perfect match for a patient, they also wanted to ensure that her health would not be subject to any challenges.

Crystal told us, “The actual donation was over before I knew it…literally. They knock you out for it. And the recovery wasn’t too bad. Everyone involved was so nice and helpful; they made all my appointments, took care of all the paperwork and financials, all I had to do was show up. The whole thing was relatively painless.”

5 years after the transplant, Stephanie and Crystal had the opportunity to meet for the first time. It happened on stage, in NYC, at the Icla da Silva Hope Gala.

In a ballroom filled with 300 onlookers, Stephanie and Crystal met face-to-face. They didn’t know each other…now they are sisters.  You can watch the video below.

Not everyone who joins the registry ends up matching a patient and saving a life, but you have to take that first step and include yourself.

Please consider joining the registry in honor of Stephanie and her donor Crystal.

join the registry


This story ends with a quote from Crystal to Stephanie…”I know the past few years haven’t been easy but you’ve traveled through them with immeasurable dignity and grace. I am so incredibly proud of you and honored to meet you. And just because the donation is over doesn’t mean my involvement in your fight is over. We’re in this together.”

Please consider joining the registry. As Crystal says, “we’re in this together.”

Written by Bret Itskowitch

 

Share this:
A Little Girl From Miami is Saved by a Stranger from New York

Watch an 8-Year-Old Girl with a Life-Threatening Disease Meet Her Life-Saving Bone Marrow Donor

It was a once in a lifetime meeting…and it happened on stage, in front of a crowd of 300 tearful witnesses at the Icla da Silva Foundations annual Hope Gala.

The Gala is an end-of-year fundraiser, celebrating achievements and thanking supporters. You can read about it here.

The highlight of that evening was the face-to-face, first time meeting between a patient and their life-saving bone marrow donor.


The Patient – Giliani Lacayo

8-year-old Giliani Lacayo was the patient. She was brought to the stage by her mom Diomaris. Giliani was diagnosed with Kostman’s syndrome, a rare disorder of the bone marrow. Children born with this condition lack the white blood cells that are important in fighting infection.

The doctors told Giliani’s mom that her only cure was a matching bone marrow transplant.

In February of 2015, at the age of 4, Giliani received a cord blood transplant. But unfortunately, one month later, the family was told that the transplant did not take.

As you might expect, Giliani’s mom was upset. She was fearful and very concerned. They had gone through this devastating process…months of hospitalization, four times with pneumonia, intense antibiotic treatments, daily injections of white blood cell boosters…and in the end, they had gotten nowhere.

Her 4-year-old little girl was not yet saved.

The doctors began the search for a matching bone marrow donor on the national registry. There are more than 20 million potential donors listed on the registry, but it’s all about the match. When a patient and donor share the same ethnicity, when they match, the chance for a successful transplant is much higher.

The search for a donor is more difficult for patients like Giliani, who are ethnically diverse. While White patients have a 77% chance of finding a matching donor, the chance of finding one for a Latino patient is only 46%; it’s even lower for African American patients.

Fortunately for Giliani, and despite her Hispanic origin, a match was found. Her name was Marta Sanchez, and she said yes when she received the call, asking her to donate her bone marrow.


The Donor – Marta Sanchez

Marta remembers joining the registry at a drive run by the Icla da Silva Foundation. It was at the Dominican Embassy in NYC. She insists that joining the registry was no big deal. When she learned that she may be the cure for someone like her, she was happy to add her name and information.

Seven years later, she received a call that she was a match for a patient.

Two days before Christmas, in 2015, Marta went to the hospital and donated her bone marrow.

At the time, she was going through some very difficult personal challenges. She had also received a lot of negative reactions from friends who declared it was dangerous and painful.

Marta insists that it was not dangerous or painful. She knew in her heart that it was something she had to do. Someone was counting on her.

Despite all that she was going through, even though she was concerned about not having enough to gift her beautiful daughters on Christmas, she knew that giving the gift of life to a complete stranger would be a blessing from God.

On Christmas Eve in 2015, little Giliani Lucayo received her life-saving bone marrow transplant from Marta Sanchez.


The Meeting

To watch Giliani’s mother express her gratitude for Marta’s selfless act was heart-wrenching. They embraced on stage for the longest time and it was a beautiful thing to witness.

We were fortunate to watch the story unfold on stage.

A young girl suffering from a rare disease. A mother struggling to understand what will happen next. And a selfless woman, navigating her own challenges, who took the steps to unanimously give life to an unknown person.

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. You can watch them meet in the short video below. At 2:55 little Giliani thanks Marta for saving her life.


You Can Play A Role

Giliani’s mom Diomaris, gave us her reaction to Marta’s life-saving bone marrow donation for her little girl, “There are no words for what she did. I’m thankful for her every day. I pray for her and her family every day. My whole life I will be thankful for her, she is part of our lives, she is part of our family. “

You could save another person’s life. You may be able to give joy to an entire family by donating your stem cells or bone marrow to a patient who doesn’t have a match in their family. Please add yourself to the Be The Match registry by clicking the link below. You will receive a swab kit in the mail. As soon as you return the kit, your name will be included in searches for matching donors.

Be like Marta. Do it for patients like Giliani.

join the registry

Thanks for reading.

Written by Bret Itskowitch

Share this:
Fort Myers Woman Meets German Stem Cell Donor – FOX 4 Now, Southwest Florida

Andrea McCarraher was diagnosed in September 2015 and after rounds of chemo, she was placed on a list for a stem cell donation.

The donation eventually came via 26-year-old Daniela who lives in Germany.

According to Daniela, signing up to donate stem cells is pretty common there.

“It’s not special… A lot of people do it.”

It may be no big deal in Germany, but it was life-changing here in Fort Myers, where Andrea says she aims to make the most of her second chance at life by encouraging others to donate.

Read the story from Fox 4 News in Southwest Florida here..

Watch the video

Inspired to jon the registry and potentially save someones life?

join the registry

Share this:
Still Smiling – David Gonzales Shares His Story

David Gonzales shares his story from Centro Church in Dallas, Texas.

David has Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, recurring 4 times in his life. He has undergone 415 days of chemo and radiation and he is currently in remission.

Despite his disease, he still smiles. He is living his life and he continues to support his community by holding bone marrow drives with the Icla da Silva Foundation.

Hispanic and Latino persons who are suffering from various blood cancers, only have a 23% chance of finding a matching donor. A 23% chance at a life-saving cure.

There simply aren’t enough Latinos included on the registry.

A matching bone marrow or stem cell donor is the only cure for many patients.

Together, we can increase the likelihood of finding a match by asking as many people as possible to join the Be The Match registry.

join the registry

Watch the short video below where Dave shares his story. After you join the registry, share with your family and friends so they may also join the registry. Help us change the odds…help us save more lives.

Written by Bret Itskowitch, special thanks to Andres David Lopez for shooting and editing.

Share this:
Join Us for the Icla da Silva 2019 Hope Gala

 

BREAKING NEWS: On October 16th, 2019, the Icla da Silva Foundation will hold its 27th annual Hope Gala celebration. The event promises to be an extraordinary evening of dining and dancing while raising funds to support our mission.

Held annually, the Hope Gala celebrates the Foundation’s achievements for the year in fighting leukemia and other diseases treatable by bone marrow transplants. The evening’s highlight is an emotional first-time meeting between a former patient and their life-saving bone marrow donor.

Details

Please join us, rsvp here:

RSVP for the Hope gala

Honoring

This year, the Hope Gala is honoring Dr. Lawrence Itskowitch.  As a founding board member, Dr. Itskowitch has been with the Foundation since day one. He will share some of his experiences working with the foundation at its onset, and meeting Icla prior to her death from leukemia in 1992.

Grateful

The Icla da Silva Foundation is extremely grateful to the Hope Gala Host Committee and Co-Chairs, Mrs. Tanae & Mr. Claudio Braz Ferro, and Mrs. Renata & Mr. Claudio Garcia.

Their gracious support enables us to move forward in our mission of both saving lives by recruiting bone marrow donors and providing support services to children and adults with leukemia and other diseases treatable by marrow transplants.

Join Us

We hope to see you on October 16th. RSVP today! Together we will save more lives.

 

About Icla da Silva
The Icla da Silva Foundation is the largest recruitment center for the Be The Match Registry in the United States. The Foundation recruits over 38,000 potential bone marrow donors every year, with a strong focus on minority communities.

The Icla da Silva Foundation was established in 1992, in memory of the 13-year-old Brazilian girl named Icla da Silva. After two years of fighting leukemia, Icla passed away in New York City, where she came hoping to get her life-saving treatment: a bone marrow transplant. The young girl never found a matching donor.

The mission of the Icla da Silva Foundation is to save lives by recruiting bone marrow donors and to provide support services to children and adults with leukemia and other diseases treatable by marrow transplants. The Icla da Silva Foundation is a nonprofit organization under section 501(c) 3 of the IRS Code.
www.icla.org

Share this:
Shortage of Bone Marrow Donors a Health Challenge for Minority Communities – NBCNews

7-year-old Asaya Bullock has a rare immune system disease, and the only cure is a bone marrow transplant. His parents have been searching for five years with no luck and are trying to raise awareness and encourage more African-American donors. Out of some 10 million potential bone marrow donors in the U.S., fewer than 1 million are African-American.

View the segment on NBC News.

How can you help Asaya?

join the registry

Share this:
How You Can Help Save This Little Boy’s Life – Modern Wellness Guide

Alfredo Diaz is suffering from an extremely rare disease. A blood stem cell transplant, from a genetically matched donor is his only hope for a cure.

His mom, Natalia Torres, is confident that a matching donor will be found. “There’s one out there, we just have to find him or her.”

We are searching for Alfredo and his family…you can help us by joining the registry and sharing Alfredo’s story.

 

join for alfredo

read his story

Share this:
Thank You!

 

Your donations will help us add more potential life-savers to the Be The Match registry this year.

Even if you were unable to make a financial donation, we wanted to thank you for your continued support.

Every dollar, like, share and mention brings us closer to our goal of saving more lives that are treatable with bone marrow transplants.

You are appreciated.

MAKE A DONATION

Icla da Silva is a 501(c)3 organization and your donation is tax deductible.

JOIN THE REGISTRY

Wishing you and your family a healthy and happy New Year!

 

Share this:
5 Days to Save a Life – Andre’s Bone Marrow Donation Process

It started on a Thursday. By Monday at 1:20 PM, he was finished. He had saved someone’s life by donating his bone marrow.

When Andre Teixeira learned about the challenges facing so many blood cancer patients, he became interested in donating his bone marrow. Every year, more than 14,000 patients with blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma are searching for a bone marrow transplant. For many, there is no matching donor. Not all will survive. Andre just wanted to make a difference.  He wanted to help.

 

Joining the Registry

Andre attended a bone marrow drive run by the Icla da Silva Foundation. The drive took place at the Brazilian consulate in Boston, where he lives. He was a little nervous at first, but he decided to join the Be the Match registry.

At the drive, Andre met Maria Santos.  Maria works with us at Icla da Silva. She organizes donor drives and works closely with patients throughout the Boston area who are in search of a life-saving bone marrow donation.  She shared some information with Andre and assisted him with the registration process.

Finally Receiving ‘The Call’

Three years after joining the registry, Andre received a call from Be the Match.  He was a match for a patient in need. They asked if he wanted to donate his bone marrow and he said “yes”.

Andre thought that by sharing his donation process, he may interest more people to do the same. He insists it was easy to register and painless to donate, and ultimately, he saved someone’s life.

The Donation Process

Be The Match set up an appoint for him to receive a blood test and get a physical.  They wanted to ensure that he was physically fit and capable of donating without any risk. He was.

They used a clinic 5 minutes from his house, where he would go to receive a daily injection of filgrastim.  Filgrastin increases the blood-producing cells in your blood stream.

He went for his 1st shot on a Thursday. It took 15 minutes.

Andre returned on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to receive his shots. He said he had a little bit of lower back pain on Saturday, but he was fine.

On Monday, he arrived at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.  It was a little after 7 AM.

When he first received the call that he was “a match”, he contacted Maria Santos, from Icla da Silva.  She had helped him join the registry 3 years ago. She went with Andre to the hospital, to join him for his bone marrow donation.

Andre received his last injection of filgrastim at the hospital on Monday and then began the donation process.  

A doctor met with him, thanked him for agreeing to donate his marrow and explained the process.  They did a PBSC donation (peripheral blood stem cell). Your blood is removed through a needle in one arm and passed through a machine that will collect only the blood-forming cells. The remaining blood is returned to your body through a needle in the other arm.

He was hooked up to the machine at about 8 AM.

Maria sat with him. They talked, watched TV, eat and drank.  Andre insists there was no pain or discomfort.

At 1:20 PM, about 5 hours after they had begun, he was finished.  Andre saw the small bag of his marrow (250ml). It would immediately be processed and sent to a patient. His donation would save that patients life.

He was asked to stand up and walk around a bit.  They asked if he felt dizzy, or if he had any numbness.  He said he felt fine.

The nurses on the floor all clapped for him and sent him home.

Thank You

Andre said the process was easy, and he is excited that he was able to play a role in saving another person’s life.

We are grateful that he joined the registry and said “yes” when he received the call to donate his bone marrow.  We are thankful that he has allowed us to share his story with you.

You can make a difference. Everyone can.  Someone’s cure may literally be inside you.  Please join the bone marrow registry today. You may be a match for someone.

JOIN THE REGISTRY

Written by: Bret Itskowitch

Share this:
Join Us on October 17th and Help Save More Lives

 

The 2018 Hope Gala takes place on Wednesday, October 17th at 6:30 PM.  The dinner and dance is black tie optional and will be held at Guastavino’s, 409 east 59th Street in New York City.  The Hope Gala is the largest fundraising event for the Icla da Silva Foundation.

 

Why Are We Celebrating?

The Hope Gala celebrates our achievements and raises funds to continue our fight against leukemia and other diseases treatable by bone marrow transplants.

Thanks to your support, so far this year, the Icla da Silva Foundation has held 1374 donor recruitment drives across the country.  At those drives, we have added 20,246 potentially life-saving donors to the Be the Match bone marrow registry.  We aren’t finished yet.

Our focus is to increase awareness, and register more donors who are ethnically diverse.  Unfortunately, blood cancer patients who are ethnically diverse, have less than a 50% chance of finding a potential match.  We want to change that.

Why Should You Attend?

Your attendance and the resulting donations this year, will help us add greater diversity to the bone marrow registry. A portion of the funds raised, also go towards our Patient Support Services program.  The program helps patients and their families deal with some of the financial difficulties when presented with a life threatening blood cancer.

Icla da Silva uses it’s knowledge and experience to guide patient families with information, logistics, and emotional support.  With the funds raised last year, we have been able to help patients with transportation, lodging and meals related to their bone marrow transplant and treatment.  We have also assisted with HLA typing and medical expenses.

Will We See You This Year?

This years Hope Gala will include more than 300 influential guests from the worlds of business, healthcare, the arts, philanthropy, and academia. The evening promises to be an affair to remember. Please extend an invitation to your friends and associates.  Cocktails and a silent auction begin at 6:30PM.  Dinner and dancing start at 7:30 PM.

JOIN US IN OUR FIGHT TO HELP MORE PATIENTS 

please RSVP today

 

 

Share this: