Shawn Ahdoot’s Journey with Be The Match and City of Hope

08.19.13
Shawn Ahdoot

Follow our Marketing Director, Shawn Ahdoot, on a life saving journey.

In my many years in the technology industry, as a marketing executive, supporter of innovative products and services, I never stopped — until now — to think beyond the capabilities of a single brand or the impact I — or all of us — can have on the public at large.

I don't care too much for needles

If you pause, briefly, from your work — and this rule applies to all companies — you should ask yourself the most important question: How can I save a life?

Asking that question, answering it with blood (literally), sweat and tears (of joy), is one of the deepest experiences I know.

Put a different way, brands may rise or fall, new technology may dominate the marketplace or fade away, celebrity CEOs may come and go — all of this is ephemeral, and meaningless, when compared with saving a person’s life.

be the match bone marrow transplant

Religion teaches us that if you save one life you save the world entire; it’s a principle secularists and non-believers share as well, and it’s the reason I am writing these words, to the public, for the good of the public. Indeed, I am a spiritual person who respects all viewpoints, but I am also someone who is, thanks to the blessings of technology and the bountiful information it bestows upon us, part of something truly wonderful: the Be The Match Registry, in association with City of Hope.

This program, which starts with a simple cotton swab of your mouth, can culminate — will culminate — in my surgical donation of bone marrow for a patient who needs a transplant to survive. And this forum and timeline, where we can all painlessly donate for this cause, is my effort to demystify this process, inspire others to join the program and keep readers apprised, every day, about my progress or topics of interest related to this endeavor.

I would be remiss if I did not, once again, mention the importance of encouraging other technology companies to join this movement.

In my work for Colocation America (“CLA”), and as someone who is on the front-line of rapid change involving global communications, hardware, software, cloud-based computing and the dynamic use of data centers, I meet a lot of so-called tech pioneers and individuals who run, manage or oversee some of the most influential brands in this space.

And yet, CLA is one of the few such companies to give back, to do everything in our power — and I use that adjective in its plural construction, because everyone at my office supports this cause — to save a life. I do not, however, issue this statement as a means of self-promotion or as an attempt at crass commercialism. My intention is the exact opposite!

To every technology company with seemingly boundless resources, to every brand with a loyal consumer following, to every startup and Silicon Valley behemoth — to all of the executives and staff at these companies, I say to them: “Step up, and stand out.” I am one person, but with the encouragement of those I love and respect I know I can help make the world a better place.

I will soon undergo surgery to extract my bone marrow, as I am a likely match for a patient who needs this transplant. In response to the question, Am I Scared? Yes of course. Never mind the surgery and recovery, the sight of blood makes me squeamish. Having my own blood tested in preparation for this journey doesn’t help but I would not forsake the chance to help someone.

This site will catalog my experiences and comments with text and video, culminating in my surgery on in early September (the date is not given here for confidentiality reasons). This journey does not end here. September is part of Blood Cancer Awareness Month and every day is a new beginning, which is why I cordially invite your comments, posts, tweets and contributions.

Every person in every industry has the opportunity to save a life. My role, with humility is the honor of helping a fellow human being. Although words may fail me at times the thought that we, through the Be The Match Registry, in association with City of Hope, will do our best to popularize this cause for patients who need our help, will always be alive, in my heart as well as those around me.

By .

Follow Shawn on Twitter for the latest updates @shawn_ahdoot


Update: August 19th

Man I hate needles!

This weekend was a time of reflection and gratitude, a period of profound appreciation for my health, my professional achievements, personal goals, and the support and love of friends and family.

As you read this, I am giving blood again—in preparation for my surgery where doctors will extract my bone marrow and then perform a lifesaving procedure for a patient who needs this transplant.

In thinking about my contribution, which began 5-years ago, and the culmination of this experience in the very near future, I am now readying myself for surgery and hospitalization; the emotions are intense, fast, powerful and sometimes difficult to process.

I want this forum to educate people – individuals like me, or like the person I was (in 2008), who have the ability and desire to help others. All we need is the light and the guidance necessary to direct us to a cause worthy of our assistance and noble in its efforts.

If I am emotional or at times scared, excited, exuberant or temporarily speechless before the awesome power of science, medicine and technology – I am so for a reason; we have the power to change someone’s life.

If you have reached this point I encourage you to read just a bit further because, while I am giving blood (despite my fear of needless and queasiness in this environment), you can be the next person who does the same thing. You can be the individual who says yes I will. I will do my best because I have the gift of my health, the chance to save a life.

To every technology executive, IT professional, data analyst, programmer, designer and entrepreneur, I say to each of you, with humility and respect, step up and stand out. I have the support of my coworkers, and there is no reason why you can’t do the same.

My anxieties are real, my expectations vary from energized to exhausted; By now, my blood will have been taken, a bandage will have been applied and I will be driving back to my office, relieved and reassured, for I am one step closer to saving a life.


My Journey Week of August 27th

Donating a whole pint of blood definitely makes you light headed, let me tell you.

My friends and family see many elements of my identity, but the individual they know as Shawn Ahdoot is a fun, passionate and dedicated person with specific interests. From my love of cars and music to my hunger for fitness and being active, all of these things, the ambitious, (occasionally) rambunctious and intense personality that influences my behavior, those factors only reveal a small part of who I am. But first let me tell you, giving 1 pint of blood will most certainly make you light-headed. Even still, I’m trucking on.

As readers of this site know, I am a volunteer for the Be The Match Registry, in association with City of Hope, where I will soon undergo surgery to have my bone marrow extracted and then implanted into a patient suffering from leukemia or some other blood-related – and potentially fatal – disease.

My involvement in the Be The Match Registry is now something real and, to this very day, a bit unbelievable.

The rapid sorting of potential matches between donors and patients resulted in a phone call – I will never forget the words from that conversation – notifying me that someone, a young boy or girl, someone’s husband or wife, a brother or sister, a mother or father — someone I never met, for whom language, geography and culture may separate us, still, through or own biology, speak the ultimate language of kinship.

A Weekend of Spiritual Reflection, Education and Inspiration

This information is already public knowledge, as I disclosed it a few days ago, but this past weekend, starting on the beginning of Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, impacted me in ways I can only partially – and then just barely articulate. I am not a deeply religious or religiously observant Jew – nor am I a member of the Orthodox movement. I am, however, a very spiritual person. Call it recognition of a higher power, karma or the universe or the invisible bond of humanity that unites us all, and thus transcends race, religion, nationality and creed.

As an Iranian Jew – a minority within a minority among the Diaspora – I am part of a strong community, which, in Southern California, traces its journey from the Middle East to the United States through a commonly shared experience: The overthrow of the government in Tehran, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, the persecution and murder of Jews – individuals whose ancestors were great figures in Persian history, for centuries – and the forced exile, from their homes, schools and neighborhoods, to new lands, new challenges and new opportunities.

And, while I have also mentioned how under served the Be The Match Registry is in general, that we need more people – worldwide – contributing to this effort, that rule is especially true within my own community of Iranian Jews. Indeed, it was during Shabbat, where the stress of the week and the responsibilities of work dissolved amidst the togetherness of family, that my parents – for the first time, after viewing my video about my involvement in this program – congratulated me. No, they did more than that: In their own way, with the pride and love only a parent has for their child (I am the youngest of three sons), they silently encouraged me – the feeling was so emotional and powerful – to educate our fellow Iranian Jews, in Los Angeles and elsewhere, to support Be The Match Registry.

For an otherwise insular community, and that insularity has its many advantages and some drawbacks, the approval of my parents is a summons to go forth and spread the word about this cause. So, as my heritage will always inspire me, today, at this very moment, I have never been more conscious – and joyful – to call myself an Iranian Jew because I have a concrete way to empower my own people.

To my coreligionists, who are also my fellow expatriates, my words are simple: Join the Be The Match Registry, for you will perform the greatest mitzvah (commandment) of all: You will help save a life. Shalom!


My Journey Week of September 3rd

Headed into surgery soon. Self reflections in my own shadows.

I will soon be undergoing surgery on behalf of the Be The Match Registry and City of Hope. A portion of my bone marrow will be extracted, and then transplanted into a patient who is my genetic match. This surgery, shared between two strangers and linked by a shared biological profile is a lifesaving procedure.

The patient is a mystery to me. However, I do know that that individual has loved ones – people who are emotionally invested in this surgery and the outcome, which may constitute a second chance at life. I think about that patient; I try to visualize who that person is, imagining what these upcoming days must be like, the journey that brought us together and the anxiety (at least on my part) as we both experience something so extraordinary and powerful.

So, while I spent this weekend with family and friends, and as we celebrated the holiday and enjoyed good food and the camaraderie of one another, a thought repeated itself in my mind: Here I am, someone who otherwise gets queasy or faints at the sight of blood, and I have given more blood, had more of my blood tested and banked (for my surgery), in the course of a few months, than I have during the previous two decades combined.

Why, then, am I doing this? Why I am volunteering to be anesthetized, have a surgeon apply a scalpel or some other medical instrument to my body, and remove my bone marrow? And, throughout the course of this entire process, dating to the time, five years ago, when I had someone from Be The Match do a simple swab of my mouth and enter my genetic information into a global database — from that moment, which seems such a distant memory, I did not know – and I still know nothing about the patient who will receive my bone marrow.

If anything, this anonymity – the patient is unaware of my background, and the same is true about my knowledge of the recipient of my bone marrow – inspires me to celebrate Be The Match and City of Hope.

Of the 7 billion people on this planet, separated by geography, income, race, religion, creed, nationality and language, I am, genetically, a twin of sorts to someone in this vast collection of humanity.

Our oneness transcends every physical border or politically manufactured divide — no matter how different we may be, and no matter whether we (unknowingly) live within two miles of each other, or have an ocean that separates us, we are linked by blood, literally!

These are the thoughts that circulated in my mind during the holiday weekend. But another thought entered my mind – a concept I have mentioned before, and one that consumes me to this very day – for it is a thought about my work, as Director of Marketing for Colocation America, and the role of technology companies on behalf of helping others through charitable contributions or good deeds.

I am blessed to have the full support of my colleagues, talented professionals who have my back, so to speak. They are, aside from my parents and siblings, my greatest defenders; they encourage me to persevere, they have genuine interest in the Be The Match Registry, and through their words and actions – sometimes silence is its own form of communication – I know they are my allies and my friends.

To be in the presence of these individuals, and to have Colocation America formally champion my efforts, makes me ask a simple question: When will other technology companies emulate this example, and do something that can save a person’s life?

I pose the question as a plea, not a provocation, because the Be The Match Registry needs more members – a two-second swab of your mouth is not an inconvenience – and awareness of the program is critical to expanding this international database. Without an expansive database, without the inclusion of more genetic information, it becomes more difficult – in some cases, impossible – to find a suitable donor for someone who is dying from a potentially curable disease.

If you knew you could save someone’s life – if you were the only person who could do that, and the effort did not require superhuman strength or extraordinary powers – why would you refuse that chance?


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