Jordy Serwin, now 18 years old, studies filmmaking at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
Hospital stay ignites boy’s dream; transplant offers chance to achieve
A cord blood transplant in 1996 not only saved his life, but started him on his career path, says Jordy Serwin, 18.
The only thing he could do to occupy himself while bed-bound for two months in the hospital was watch movies, he said. "From then on, I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker."
Serwin, who contracted leukemia at age 6, was one of the first patients to have a cord blood transplant at the UCLA Medical Center. It was performed by Dr. Randal Wada of Hawaii.
Wada returned here in 1998 to join the Cancer Research Center and establish a Hawaii Cord Blood Bank.
"When Jordy was done, this (procedure) was considered experimental," Wada said. "But Dr. Nelson Chao, past president, American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation, has said in the organization's bulletin that cord blood now has hit prime time."
A significant amount of growth in the number of transplants facilitated by the National Marrow Program can be attributed to use of cord blood as a stem cell source, Wada said. This is an option for patients who otherwise would not find donors for a transplant, he said.
Serwin and his family came here in 1998 from Pasadena, Calif., to help Wada launch the Cord Blood Bank.
"I want to encourage people whenever I can to save umbilical cords," he said. "Otherwise, it is such a waste. And they can save lives. You can't put a price on that."
Serwin just finished his first year of a four-year film program at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He was interning on the set of a major motion picture in Louisiana when reached for a telephone interview.
"If it wasn't for stem cell research, I wouldn't be here," he said, noting "the politics of it, particularly with the Bush administration so against stem cell research."
He said he tries to promote cord blood and stem cell research whenever possible. At age 8 he went with his mother to Washington, D.C., to deliver a note to President Clinton asking him to support cord blood research.
In high school he wrote a speech advocating federal funding for stem cell research and submitted it to members of Congress.
Earlier this year he endorsed legislation proposed in California to provide funding for stem cell research and encourage collection and storage of cord blood for public use or medical research.
Beginning with the 10th anniversary of his transplant, his family has donated $100 to cancer research for every year that he has been cancer free, he said.
Serwin's mother and stepfather live in Virginia, where he went to high school, and his father and stepmother are in Napa, Calif.
Two years after discovering his love of filmmaking while being treated with chemotherapy and radiation at the UCLA medical center, Serwin said he made his first movie with his friends and a video camera.
He said the experience he is getting with his internship "hopefully is one step ... to my dream of being a filmmaker that first started when I was 61/2 years old and receiving my cord blood transplant at UCLA."