Judah Berger was only 18 when he signed up for the Gift of Life registry. This week, the now 22-year-old from Atlanta had the chance to meet the man whose life will go on thanks to his bone marrow donation.
More than 700 miles away from North Druid Hills in Troy, Michigan, 70-year-old Bernard Weiner was running out of options. Diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Disorder, a blood cancer, Weiner was in need of a marrow transplant. He'd already been matched once, but unfortunately the transplant fell through at the last minute for medical reasons.
"We were pretty devastated," Weiner told 11Alive News.
Then, a month later, Berger came up as a match, agreeing to donate his bone marrow for Weiner's transplant. Confidentiality laws mean communication or meetings between matches can be rare, but this week the two men met for the first time at the Gift of Life Marrow Registry Campus Ambassador Symposium.
For two men more than five decades apart in age, it was an emotional moment. A video captured the two embracing in a hug in front of a cheering crowd.
"I thought he’s a healthy looking young man for one thing. He’s a good looking guy. I’ve got some good genes now," Weiner told 11Alive News. "He was just smiling when he walked in. All I could do is hug him on the stage."
For Berger, it was an easy decision to donate.
"I decided to donate because I hit the generic lottery in being a match for someone," Berger told 11Alive. Once you’re given the opportunity, it’s hard to say no to such a chance!"
"It was absolutely wonderful to meet Bernie and his wife," Berger said, "And overwhelming that I did something with my time that someone can say 'Thank you for saving my life.'"
"I’m sure that we’re going to be friends for life now," Weiner said. "Hopefully, I’ll have a long life now because of Judah.”