When presented with the chance to give the gift of life, one Twinsburg native acted without hesitation in assisting a complete stranger.
During a bone marrow donation drive organized in October 2013 by her Hillel group at Eckerd College in Florida, Twinsburg High School 2010 graduate Alison Roskoph, formerly of Silverdale Circle, was told following a DNA test that she was a potential stem cell match for a 57-year-old man suffering from chronic myelogenous leukemia.
Roskoph wasted no time in going forward with the donation.
"I'm very excited to do it, I am a little bit nervous, I'm not a big fan of needles but I am perfectly fine with going through with it," Roskoph said. "When I start something, I finish it."
"I'm just very excited to start the process and do it."
Roskoph, president of Eckerd Hillel, said her group's bone marrow donor registration drive, in partnership with the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation of Boca Raton, encourages students to contribute to the treatment of bone marrow-threatening diseases. Eckerd Hillel, like many college Hillel groups, is a fellowship of Jewish college students that gathers to pursue community service, academic achievement and the celebration of Jewish and Hebrew culture.
"We decided to have a drive last year on campus to get students registered to be potential bone marrow donors," Roskoph said Jan. 8. "I decided to get swabbed because ... I thought it would be a great way to represent Hillel. So, after finding out more information ... I started the process of getting everything ready to donate stem cells."
Four days before the procedure, Roskoph took injections that raised her stem cell count so a donation could be taken. Stem cells, when separated from the bloodstream and infused with the recipient, can replace cells damaged by diseases like leukemia. Roskoph received the shots Jan. 9 and underwent the donation process at a clinic in Washington, D.C., Jan. 13.
In spite of some discomfort with the out-patient procedure, Roskoph said she looks forward to completing a "great mitzvah," or act of charity.
Eckerd Hillel campus Rabbi Ed Rosenthal said Roskoph and her peers have exemplified the Jewish tenets of charity by working with the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation. By pursuing her stem cell donation, Roskoph closely followed Jewish traditions and represented Eckerd Hillel proudly, Rosenthal said.
"In the Jewish tradition, we have a concept called Pikuach Nefesh, which means the responsibility to save a life," Rosenthal said. "So if you have the opportunity to save a life, you're obligated to do it. When the opportunity comes about to perform this mitzvah, this command of Pikuach Nefesh, Alison had a choice, of course, but living up to the Jewish values that she was raised with and that she strives to live up to, she really didn't have a choice when she thought she had the opportunity to save somebody's life. That's why we're so proud of her."
Roskoph said her satisfaction made up for the fatigue she felt after the procedure.
"I feel very successful, I'm also very proud that I was chosen to be a match," Roskoph said. "I'm very glad that it's done and that I can hopefully find out that it's successful for the recipient."
According to Gift of Life regulations, the recipient of Roskoph's stem cells will remain anonymous until a year after the donation, when he can decide whether he wants to meet his donor. But Roskoph already knows she has made a vital difference in the life of a stranger.
"Unfortunately, I don't get to know any of [the recipient's details] for at least a year and it's completely up to him if he would like to meet me after that year," Roskoph said. "Which is completely fine, I respect all of that. Life is a beautiful thing ... I've always learned that life is sacred."
Facebook: Conner Howard, Record Publishing Reporter