A 7-year-old Utah girl has a real-life superhero to thank for saving her — a retired vet who selflessly donated his bone marrow to give her a chance at life.
Adriana Aviles from Cleveland, Ohio was diagnosed with leukemia when she was just 4 years old. She wasn’t responding to treatment and doctors recommended the little girl undergo a bone marrow transplant in order to save her life.
“It’s just hard because you’re so scared and fearful because it’s your baby,” mom Jessica Aviles told USA Today.
That’s where Mike Laureano came in.
Laureano was taking classes at Wilmington University in Delaware when he stopped at a table to register to become a Be The Match donor. The former National Guard member who served eight years (including a tour in Iraq) didn’t think much of it at the time.
“In my mind, I pretty much just thought that, if I did happen to match somebody, it was meant to be,” Laureano told USA Today.
As it turned out, Adriana, one of the twin daughters of Major League Baseball player Mike Aviles, was his “meant to be.” Be The Match contacted the Aviles family to let them know they’d found a donor, which is no easy feat.
“Seventy percent of individuals who need a transplant do not have a fully matched donor in their family,” says Amy Alegi, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for Be The Match, in an interview with Babble.
Laureano received a phone call from Be The Match a year after registering. He didn’t hesitate to fulfill his promise to donate, even though he wasn’t given any information about who would be receiving his bone marrow. Laws require that donors and recipients have no communication before the transplant day and only anonymous communication within the first year post-surgery. After that, if both parties agree, contact information can be shared.
Laureano went on about his life, and more importantly so did Adriana, who successfully made it through surgery. But Adriana’s mom wanted to find the man who saved her daughter’s life.
“I woke up one morning about two years after surgery, I had a Facebook message from Adriana’s mom [that said]: ‘You don’t know me but if this is you, I just want to share that this is the little girl you saved two years ago,'” Laureano told USA Today. “I pushed my wife and said, ‘Look at this!’ I always wanted to meet them.”
The two families kept in contact until Laureano got the chance to meet Adriana in person during a cross-country road trip. Adriana began to sob when she finally met Laureano, running into his arms and saying, “Thank you so much.”
Mom Jessica told Inside Edition that her daughter “might only be 7 years old, but her heart and mind are wise — she knows how incredible this gift of life was.”
“Mike is not only a hero to Adriana and her family, but he’s a hero to all of us at Be The Match,” Alegi tells Babble. “This story has already inspired thousands of people to join the registry and the fight against blood cancer, but we can’t stop there.”
h/t: USA Today