The Gift of Life – the Fight for Life

September 25, 2013 by J-Wire Staff
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Judy Baxt is a 46-hr-old schoolteacher chronic leukaemia which will not kill her – but it has placed her in a life threatening situation if her body is exposed to infection. She needs a bone marrow transplant…and she needs a Jewish match.

Judy Baxt

Judy Baxt

She tells J-Wire her story:

“At 25, I was ready to take up a new teaching position in Melbourne and was told by a leading Haemotologist at St Vincent’s in Sydney that I had a rare form of Leukemia called LGLL (Large Granular Lymphatic Leukemia). I would have a bone marrow biopsy and be treated with a new drug called G-CSF (granulocyte colony stimulating factor) discovered by Professor Don Metcalf at the Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research.

I remember at the time, being incredibly calm and not upset. I had an explanation for why I kept getting mouth ulcers, skin infections and was constantly tired. I knew I would not have to have chemotherapy and I could lead a fairly normal life. I would have to take antibiotics if my skin infections did not heal. I could deal with this. The drug would change my life and it did. I felt fantastic and on top of the world.

My first hospital experience was in 1999, I had been bitten by a white tip spider and had an infection on my leg. I was treated with intravenous antibiotics but I spent a week in a ward with 3 other ladies who had Bone Marrow transplants. I had long brown curly hair and they had lost theirs to Chemotherapy, I thought I am ‘lucky – but unlucky’ because I will never be in their shoes.

So now after many years of teaching at Immanuel College in London and Moriah College in Sydney and now working as a secondary Food Technology & Art  teacher at a high school in Melbourne I find my health very different.

I have suffered from constant infections in the last four years and the G-CSF is not working as well. Several months ago I was informed by my specialist Professor Jeff Szer at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, that I will need to have a matched stem cell transplant/ transfusion. Sadly, my sister Elana Shatari is not a match – she had a 25% of being so.

I have recently being discharged from 2 weeks in hospital with a fungal infection in my Sinuses and had to have two operations and blood transfusions and have lost my sense of smell and taste. While I recover, I am trying to get on with my life. Spending time with family & friends, gardening and helping my girlfriends create a ‘Friendship/Get well quilt’ for my Bone Marrow transplant, which will involve 6 weeks in hospital and months of rest time.

I feel very positive that there is a match out there for me. I have so much more I want to do in life.As an educator in Food Technology and Health, I love to teach teenagers to prepare good food and share it with family and friends. I love it when they say ‘ that was the best thing I ever cooked’. While I am waiting for my ‘bershert donor’- Jewish law (does allow blood and marrow donations), I see it as my mission to encourage as many people as possible to join the Bone Marrow registry and donate blood. So many of my family and friends have told me they want to organise a special blood testing sessions in Perth and London at their schools or synagouges.

Do not think of being a donor as an arduous or disruptive procedure, this is one of the myths I am hoping to dispel… it really can be as simple as giving blood.”

Judy loves travelling, exploring, art, crafting, cooking and gardening.

Gift of Life Australia’ Shula Endre-Walder told J-Wire: “Life threatening disorders such as Leukaemia,aplastic anaemia and immune deficiency syndromes can be cured by replacing the sick blood cells with matching healthy ones.

Only 1 in 3 patients will find a match within their family, the other 75% need to look for a match on the unrelated Stem Cell /Bone Marrow Donor Registries.

As DNA is inherited , the likelihood of finding a match is higher within one’s own ethnic group but , the Jewish community is under-represented on the Australian & Worldwide Donor Registries so the chances of a Jewish patient finding an unrelated match in only approxametly 1 in 10 000 !

Family matches are also hard to find because many Jewish Bloodlines were severely severed by the Holocaust & most families are not over endowed with relatives !”

 

Gift of Life Australia was set up to facilitate the enrolment of 18-45 year old Jewish or partly so healthy men & women in order to save the lives.The testing consists of completing the Red Cross / Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry medical questionnaires & forms and giving a small , two teaspoons sample of blood.

Special testing sessions are usually held in Melbourne at the Caulfield Red Cross Blood Services Centre .In Sydney testing is held at Wolper Jewish Hospital every Sunday morning also by appointment.Gift of Life Australia is a passionate group of Volunteers who raise awareness about saving the lives of patients in need & organising testing sessions so that at least 40 potential donors turn up to every session or letting them know that anyone can go anytime to any Red Cross Blood Donation Centre or Mobile Unit and whilst donating blood ask to join the ABMDR ,As special forms and test tubes are required ,prior  intentions should be discussed when making the appointment.

….there are still about 15 000 young adults in Victoria  who have not heard about this program, and although not all your readers are in the 18-45 year old bracket, every reader must know someone who is !

The next testing session in Melbourne will be held on Tuesday 8 October  between 4 & 7.30pm  in Caulfield as per attached flyer .We need to spread the word about this & ask for appointments to be made so that the testing for each person will only take approx. 20 minutes.

 

A special surprise has been set up for Judy and for the potential donors who will make appointments in Caulfield to be tested and enrol onto the Australian Stem cell donor Registry part of the World wide marrow Donor Association. Jonathan Gurfinkle,runner up in the Great Australian Bake Off competition has offered to bake a special cake for them.

 

 

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