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Making miracles; hoping for at least one more

Saturday, May 22, 2004

By Dennis Roddy

When people last gathered in large numbers for Amy Katz, there were 1,800 of them crowded into Temple Emanuel in Mt. Lebanon and spilling out onto the sidewalks. They had come to be tested to see if one of them might somehow match Amy's tissue type. Amy is 11. She has leukemia. She will need a stem cell transplant if she is to survive.

 
 
 
To help

For information about the Amy Katz donors drive, call 1-877-243-4269.

 
 
 

Of those 1,800 people, about 150 had to be turned away because of health problems of their own. Cancer survivors showed up to be tested as possible donors. To save a child, even the dying will wait in line.

Would-be donors were all entered into the national donor registry. It is fortunate when a drive of that size turns up a matching donor. It is shocking when it produces two. One believes in God when it turns up five.

When all five potential donors match someone other than Amy, one suspects God is sending a message, and that the message is, "Don't stop."

Don't stop.

Kate Rosenthal, who long ago adopted Amy as a niece without the formality of family ties, met me at the Coffee Tree the other day to explain what has happened. Five of the people who came to Temple Emanuel that Sunday in February turned out to be perfect matches for people in other cities, including a 4-year-old boy. The four others are adults of varying years. Every one of them wants to live and every one of them now has a chance.

Such successes beg a painful question: what if Mike and Lisa Katz are saving other people's kids and nobody is found for Amy? So far fate has sent out some cruel taunts. Her two sisters are perfect bone marrow matches -- for each other. A drive that should have surprised by producing one match somewhere turned up five -- all for someone else.

What about Amy?

"The fact that none worked for Amy, we were prepared for," Rosenthal said. "In the history of the program, few people have found donors in their own drive." She's hoping that drives somewhere else will work, that Amy's Army, as they call themselves, is creating an energy that will reach other places.

There is, in all of this, a poignant lesson in the extent to which people are connected. Five people, who care on a very personal level about Amy Katz, showed up and will likely now be called to some far corner of the world to demonstrate that affection by giving bone marrow to strangers. Amy Katz, who needs a donor, must go on hoping. Kate Rosenthal and Mike and Lisa Katz must go on hoping. They've become very good at it. They've made it work for others.

It is futile to ask them what they will do if they don't succeed.

"But we are succeeding," Rosenthal said. "These five matches, some of them could be people that were waiting for years."

We do not know if Amy Katz has years. What she has is hope. And she has another drive, tomorrow, at Community Day School, 6424 Forward Ave., Squirrel Hill. The doors open at 10 a.m. and close at 4.

It is worth thinking about: An 11-year-old girl has become the salvation of five other people. Somewhere out there, Amy's own salvation could be walking the streets of this town. It could be you. It's time for salvation to walk through the door.


(Dennis Roddy can be reached at droddy@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1965.)



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