Woodmere resident Dr. Adam Lish was not at Citi Field on May 20 just to watch his beloved New York Mets play the Washington Nationals. He was also there to reunite with a special individual.
Lish and Brian Veith, 24, of Burlington, Conn., reconnected after 15 years, when Lish donated his bone marrow to the then 9-year-old Veith, who had immune disorder, familial erythrocytosis lymphohistiocytosis. The reunion was through the Gift of Life Marrow Registry.
Veith received his transplant on May 23, 2003 and first met Lish at Shea Stadium a year later, when they were one of the first donor-recipient pairs the Mets ever hosted in the baseball team’s partnership with Gift of Life, a nonprofit founded in 1991. Its mission is to help save lives by facilitating bone marrow and blood stem cell transplants for patients with leukemia, lymphoma, and other blood-related diseases.
“Every day, 500 people in US are diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma or other blood diseases,” said Director of Development Robyn Malek. “For many of them, there’s a hope for a cure through bone marrow. Our goal is to help find someone who needs one.”
Mark DeFrancesco Jr., 26 who received bone marrow from Samuel Aronoff when he was 11 as he battled acute myeloid leukemia, a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow with excess immature white blood cells. Aronoff was unable to attend the event.
Veith has kept in touch in DeFrancesco Jr. and credits him with helping get through the transplant process. “I don’t remember a lot of the process since I was young,” Veith said. “But it did help having a friend like Mark to go through it with. He was the biggest reason I got through it.”
Co-chair of Gift of Life’s NYC Young Professional Committee, Jason Schifrien noted the similarities between DeFrancesco Jr. and Veith’s transplants. “Both of the donors joined our registry in 2002,” Schifrien said. “Both donors gave bone marrow at the Cornell University Medical Center on May 22, 2003 and the next day, both boys were treated and received their transplants.”
Lish said that his children kept in touch with Veith through social media. “I’m not much of a Facebook guy, but my kids point out what Brian (Veith) is up to,” said Lish, who has lived in Woodmere for the past 27 years. “It’s great to see him grown up and doing well.”
The inspiration for being a donor occurred locally at the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway. “Over 15 years ago, there was a bone marrow drive at HAFTR for a boy who had cancer,” he said. “Hundreds of people were screened that day including myself. I eventually decided to join Gift of Life’s registry.”
He said that is very grateful for being involved with Gift of Life. “I’ll trade the grey hairs and a couple of extra pounds around my waist to see a healthy young guy here doing well,” Lish said, whose Mets won that night’s game 5-3.
For more on the Gift of Life, go to www.giftoflife.org.