Congress must save lives and reauthorize cell transplant funding | Opinion – NorthJersey.com

Ronald Roth, Special to the USA TODAY NETWORK Published 4:02 a.m. ET Aug. 19, 2020

In May of this year, religious Jews celebrated Pesach Sheni. Pesach Sheni literally means Second Passover and marks the day in ancient times when someone who was unable to participate in Passover was given a second chance to observe the holiday.

The concept of second chances is a powerful one, not just in the Jewish faith, but in our society as a whole. Some times a second chance is more than just an opportunity for spiritual or personal redemption some times a second chance is literally a second chance at life itself.

I know this first-hand, because thanks to a bone marrow transplant, I was given a second chance at life.

In May 2015, I was diagnosed with a myelofibrosis, a rare form of blood cancer. For three years, I travelled back and forth to Mount Sinai Hospital for blood tests and medications that treated my illness. For those first three years I was fortunate to have few symptoms of my disease and I was able to continue my very busy schedule as rabbi of Fair Lawn Jewish Center/Congregation Bnai Israel.

Patrick Gustoso registers for the National Marrow Donor Program on March 28, 2017, at the Nutley Health Department. Organizers hope to find a match for resident Anne Rotonda.(Photo: Owen Proctor/NorthJersey.com)

In the spring of 2018, my medical fortunes changed dramatically as the disease began a more rapid progression. Since my diagnosis, I had known that a bone marrow transplant would be my only chance at a cure and in August 2018, I received that bone marrow transplant and a second chance at life.

After my transplant, I became an ambassador advocate for National Marrow Donor Program/Be The Match. I committed myself to using this second chance to help others who are in need of access to life-saving cellular therapy. I am not alone in this, all across the country men and women, doctors and patients, survivors and co-survivors, donors and recipients are working tirelessly to make sure live-saving materials are delivered to those in need.

We cant do it alone, we need help help from our elected officials in Washington.

The CW Bill Young Cell Transplantation program provides access to live-saving bone marrow, peripheral blood stem cell and cord blood transplants for patients living with one of more than 70 blood cancers or disorders for which a transplant is the only curative option.

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Since its inception, the CW Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program has always enjoyed broad bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress. The program has been reauthorized by Congress every five years. It is up for re-authorization again this year and Congress should act swiftly to ensure the program remains able to fulfill its critical live-saving function.

Over the past 30 years, the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP)/Be The Match has been entrusted by Congress to operate this critical program. During that time, more than 100,000 life-saving and life-extending transplants have been facilitated through the national registry.Many of these transplants took place here in New Jersey.

The Program is up for reauthorization again this summer and it is absolutely imperative that both chambers act swiftly to ensure that the program is reauthorized and that the critical life-saving work continues.The mission of the national registry to match patients and donors and ensure the timely transportation of lifesaving cellular products through the United States and around the world has been made even more challenging by COVID-19.Despite the pandemic, NMDP/Be The Match completed more transplants in June than in any single month in the programs history.This was only made possible by having the status of a federally authorized program that is recognized by other Federal, state, and local agencies and foreign governments.Should the programs authorization lapse at the end of September, there is concern that the program may not be able to operate as efficiently during the continuing public health emergency.

By reauthorizing the CW Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program, Congress can help give second chances to tens of thousands of men and women in need all across the country and here in New Jersey.

Rabbi Ronald Roth lives in Fair Lawn.

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Congress must save lives and reauthorize cell transplant funding | Opinion – NorthJersey.com