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Student Spotlight: Cameron Sobelman

Being Jewish at CSUN has been an essential part of Cameron Sobelman during his time in college. “I am involved in a lot of different parts of Jewish life on campus, I am on the Chabad board, and I’m on the executive board for [my fraternity] Alpha Epsilon Pi. I started at CSUN during COVID, and I didn’t really have a Jewish place. I did a few things on zoom with Hillel 818, then once classes transitioned back to in person I was like ‘okay I need to like burst into the Jewish scene in a big way’ so I joined Alpha Epsilon Pi. I started going to Chabad more, as well as some more Hillel events; just making my name and face known in the Jewish community at CSUN.”

The Jewish community at CSUN is who convinced Cameron to do one of the biggest mitzvahs one can do: donating STEM cells. He told us, “In Spring of 2022, while I was a new member in Alpha Epsilon Pi, a brother at the time, David Tahoor, was tabling for Gift of Life. I swabbed and didn’t really think anything of it afterwards. Part of me was like, ‘Oh, if I do have an opportunity to save a life, it would be selfish of me not to swab.’ Later that summer I got a call saying I was a match. I felt super excited, scared, nervous and honored. After the initial phone call, there was a few months of radio silence and it wasn’t until February of this year (2023) that everything started to get arranged for me to donate. After double checking my medical records and getting a ton of bloodwork done to make sure that I was good and healthy, they flew me out to Florida in March.”

Surprisingly, the procedure and recovery were a lot less rough than Cameron initially thought. “The recovery was easy. I stayed in Boca Raton, Florida for 5 days before the procedure. They gave me doses of filgrastim (which stimulates your bone marrow to produce more stem cells) then the donation happened and then the next morning you fly out. Aside from some lower back pain, it’s a very short recovery time and it doesn’t hurt very much. The recovery time was nothing, it was less than 24 hours.”

In Cameron’s own words, this is the most important thing he feels he’s ever done. “It is one of the easiest things I’ve ever done and also one of the most impactful. If I didn’t do it, then [that person] may not be able to get through chemo, or whatever other medical procedures they have to get through.I don’t know if there is anything that will be more important than that moment I got the phone call. The feeling of ‘I saved someone’s life’ is going to stick with me, it’s not something you forget about. Personally, it helped give me perspective of my life and responsibilities, because when I got that phone call, I knew nothing else was more important. The week that I was gone [in Florida] to donate, I had other responsibilities in my life that I had to rearrange because of how important this was. It really had a huge impact on my priorities and the way that I view the bigger pictures in life.”

He encourages everyone who is able to swab to do so. “Do it. Just swabbing will save a person's life. The more people [Gift of Life] has records of increases the chance of more people getting matches. It’s just a very simple thing to do. There are multiple Jewish organizations on CSUN’s campus that have done things with Gift of Life. Last semester Alpha Epsilon Pi had their philanthropy with Gift of Life. So we tabled for a whole week, we got a bunch of swabs, and that event produced 5 matches. Even just swabbing is really important to save a life! You’d be surprised how many people are personally affected by it. In my time in Florida, I talked to a bunch of strangers and they’re like, ‘Why are you here?’ and I said, ‘I’m donating stem cells.’ They all said something like ‘Oh my gosh that's so cool, my friend donated,’ or, ‘My friend got the donation and lived.’ It’s a really beautiful process to donate and to swab.”

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