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Jay Feinberg and Ron Rifkin

Giving Of One’s Self
To Save Another

by Tim Boxer

ON RIFKIN didn’t hesitate to serve as emcee for the third year at the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation dinner at the Grand Hyatt. The star of ABC’s Alias told executive director Jay Feinberg, "It is an honor to give when someone needs to receive."

Feinberg founded the organization after his own bone marrow transplant 10 years ago. He now has a registry of 100,000 donors in 40 countries.

I thought it was odd that in addition to the requisite floral centerpiece, each table held a box of Kleenex.

Ordinarily, when one makes a bone marrow or blood stem cell donation to a recipient through the Gift of Life program, neither person knows the identity of the other. They may find out a year later, with mutual consent, at the organization’s annual dinner.

Ruth Madoff introduced Raphi Weitz to his donor, Robert Eppenstein, a court reporter in New York.

Weitz, director of the Neurology Institute at Schneider Children’s Medical Center in Israel, was diagnosed with acute leukemia three years ago.

Weitz embraced life as he hugged his savior. "Without your gift I wouldn’t be here," Weitz said.

Warren Spector, president and Co-COO of Bear Stearns (his wife calls him "Cocoo"), introduced another recipient to her donor.

Irene Berg of Hyde Park, N.Y., a nurse for United HealthCare, got a stem cell transplant that saved her life. Her anonymous donor turned out to be Mark Waldman, owner of Pacific Engineering and Construction Co. in San Francisco. He came bearing a bouquet of long-stemmed roses for the person he saved.

"I’m glad we met," Waldman said. "We are family – in fact, blood relatives."

Now I understood why Kleenex was the centerpiece.

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