News and Events

Only at Rambam: Occupational Therapist, Soldier, and Bone-marrow Donor

Publication Date: 12/3/2023 8:00 AM

Lee Shahaf, an occupational therapist at Rambam Health Care Campus (Rambam) in Haifa, Israel, has been serving as a casualty officer since she was called up for reserves at the beginning of the war. Now her role at Rambam is two-fold: volunteering as a bone-marrow donor and, most notably, becoming a lifesaving match for a woman in need.

Rambam Occupational Therapist Lee Shahaf. Photography: Courtesy of Lee Shahaf.Rambam Occupational Therapist Lee Shahaf. Photography: Courtesy of Lee Shahaf.

Twelve years ago, Shahaf had registered as bone-marrow donor in the donation pool of ‘Ezer Mezion’ (meaning ‘help from Zion’), an Israeli organization. “I entered the donation pool of ‘Ezer Mezion,’ like many soldiers do,” reflects Shahaf. “A few months ago, I was contacted and told that a suitable match had been made with a woman in need. I didn’t know much about her. Only her age range and that, in order to obtain enough bone marrow for a successful transfer, the donation process would take two days. I agreed and waited for an update.”

The call to make the donation came while Shahaf was at Rambam, but not as part of her work at the hospital. Rather, she was serving as a casualty officer with the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) as part of her reserve duties. After explaining the situation to her superiors, Shahaf received permission to take leave so that she could make the much-needed donation. Coincidentally, she was able to make the donation at Rambam!

As part of the donation process, Shahaf received injections that increased her bone marrow production for several days. She then began the donation process, which in this case, took more than one day due to the amount of marrow needed by the recipient.

“It actually started as a simple task, but turned into an emotional event,” Shahaf recalls, “Suddenly the thought came to me that, ‘Now this is changing this woman’s life.’ It gives purpose to the fact that I am here in the world – that I have the opportunity to help someone else.”

Shahaf continues, “I would love to meet her one day, but it doesn’t matter to me who she is.” She adds, “These are such complex times, it just feels good to be able to help. As much as I helped her, I helped myself. We are all dealing with difficult things right now, and this is the least I could do.”