Yesterday, Sarry celebrated his third ‘re-birthday’, as stem-cell transplant patients across the world call it. Three years ago, the life of this 28-year-old Jordanian would be flipped upside down after a cell stem transplant saved his life.
Sarry Dahdah was first diagnosed with leukemia in 2008, while he was studying engineering in Bath, England. After an intensive chemotherapy treatment plan that lasted six months, he was declared cancer free, but only two months after his graduation the disease came back, “this time much stronger than before”, he tells BarakaBits. “They told me that this time chemotherapy would not work, but there was a new treatment called stem cell transplant to cure it”.
The challenge for both Sarry and his doctors, however, was finding a cell match. As none of his brothers were a complete match, his genetic information was run through a system of international stem call banks in Europe and the US, until they found matches in Houston, USA. On March 29, 2012, the operation finally took place.
“The procedure was a success but I did not know the identity of the donor then. The contact details of both patient and donor are kept secret until a full year has elapsed, and only released to either party only after both give their written consent. I really wanted to meet my donor since she saved my life. All I knew was that it was a woman,” he says.
To Sarry’s surprise, the donor turned out to be a Jewish-American woman in her thirties named Dena Rosenberg, who was living in Detroit, Michigan. “It is just amazing how one complete stranger living in another continent can end up saving your life. It was also fascinating to learn that she is Jewish and a perfect stem cell match to an Arab of Palestinian origin. It just reinforces the idea that we probably had the same roots around 2000 years ago. At some point, we are all related, it depends on how far you want to go.”
“Our situation is fascinating. Despite the crazy world we live in, where we are taught to hate each other and think that each of us is superior, God made it so our blood matched perfectly and we are now able to share a common bond,” Dena says.
Three years on, Sarry still takes 30 pills a day and goes to doctors regularly. “Sometimes I feel defeated and weak, but I am hopeful that tomorrow will be better than today, and I’ve gained an incredible appreciation for the small things in life,” he says. That’s why they call i it “re-birthday”: patients are literally given new blood from a donor to replace one’s own diseased blood and since blood signifies life, new blood means new life. “My blood type actually changed from A+ to O, which is the donor’s actual blood type. Interesting, right?”