Couple swaps wedding registry for bone marrow registry, asks guests to become donors

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A young couple that recently got married had a very unusual gift request for its wedding guests.

They didn’t want silverware or appliances. They asked instead for bone marrow. As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reports, they specifically asked people to become donors.

From day one, Bill Begal knew his bride was a match. But the Institute for Justice says about 3,000 people died each year because they can’t find their match. So the couple traded its wedding gift registry for another.

“Not one wedding gift, nothing. Our wedding gift is the gift of life. Our wedding registry is a bone marrow registry,” the groom said. “Make a contribution, enter your email, help make the world a better place.”

As the traditional ceremony and festivities went on, right next to it all was a table for the Gift of Life bone marrow registry. Begal is the group’s board chairman.

The organization runs a registry to help those fighting leukemia, lymphoma or other types of blood cancer find their life-saving bone marrow match.

“Looking for a matching donor was like looking for a needle in a haystack,” Begal said.

That’s how it all started for the groom, who some 20 years ago personally traveled to Russia and tested more than 500 people trying to find a match for his friend, Jay Feinberg.

Feinberg ended up founding the Gift of Life after he got his bone marrow match and a transplant 21 years ago.

“The need is huge, especially in under-served communities, Pacific Islanders, African Americans,” Begal said.

Becoming a donor is now as easy as a simple cheek swab and you’re in the registry for life.

“We hope to save many, many lives,” Begal said.

As Dr. Max reports, entering the registry doesn’t mean you have to become a donor. If you match a patient who needs a transplant, you’ll be thoroughly tested to make sure you’re truly a match.

Donations are usually a small surgical out-patient procedure to take marrow from the top of your pelvis. You’ll have pain for a couple of days, but it’s a small act that could save a life.

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