As Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and the fall season approach, Robert Richter of Port Washington has much to be grateful for – a second chance at life.
Richter, a member of of Port Washington, had battled different forms of cancer before receiving a life-saving marrow transplant in 2010. And on Aug. 26, he finally met his marrow donor at the New York Mets vs. Houston Astros game at Citifield.
Richter was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), a fast-growing cancer of the blood and bone marrow, in 2009. Like about 75 percent of patients, Richter did not have a matching donor in his family and relied on the kindness of a stranger who joined a registry to donate marrow.
Giving the gift of life is a mitzvah, an act of kindness. An anonymous marrow donation from a kind stranger through the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation turned out to be a grand slam in Richter’s fight against cancer. That stranger was 32-year old Michael Davis of the Bronx, a fellow baseball fan whose father happens to be the cantor at Synagogue Kehilath Jeshurun in Manhattan. With only a 2-day window for survival, doctors were notified of the donor match. Richter received his marrow transplant and underwent a 14-month recovery.
At Citifield, Richter and Davis were escorted onto the playing field and introduced to the crowd. Their story was told by the New York Mets, and they received a round of applause from fans watching them on the jumbotron. The two men met with a tremendous hug.
When Davis asked about his well-being, Richter replied, “I’m feeling great, I’m feeling great because of you.”
“Meeting him was a wonderful thing, and beautifully organized,” Richter said.
Richter, his wife Sheila, daughter Elana and family shared a Mets suite watching the rest of the game with Davis and his wife, two young children and parents. It was a 2-1 victory for the Mets and a win for Richter, who would not have had the chance to meet his granddaughter Jenna or his grandson due this week, had Davis not donated.
The Community Synagogue of Port Washington has held several blood and bone marrow drives. Registration to become a potential marrow donor involves minor paperwork and a simple cheek swab. Donors are placed into a national database, so that donors anywhere may answer the call if they turn out to be a match for someone.
Brotherhood at The Community Synagogue will hold a blood drive on Wednesday, Sept. 12 from 5-9 pm. Cancer patients need frequent blood transfusions because aggressive treatment often destroys healthy blood cells along with diseased ones. During his cancer fight, Richter has received so many blood transfusions that his A blood type has now changed to an O blood type.
With special thanks to The Community Synagogue.