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Emotional Meeting Between Patient and Her Marrow

Last Thursday, May 5th, Laura Rodriguez from Fort Lauderdale, Florida met for the very first time the person who saved her life, her bone marrow donor Grace Marie Rivera from Puerto Rico.  The emotional meeting took place live on the Spanish television station Telemundo in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
In 2012 Laura was feeling very tired all day and as time passed she became more and more exhausted.  Upon seeing her doctor and getting the EKG results back, she was sent immediately to the Emergency Room to receive several blood transfusions.  Many tests later, she was diagnosed with leukemia. “I was shocked and cried!”, said Ms. Rodriguez.

Laura started chemotherapy immediately.  Doctors told her that her odds of beating her illness were not good because she had such an agressive form of leukemia.  Her only hope for a cure was a bone marrow transplant but she had to get into remission first.

After spending 40 straight days in the hospital and three in ICU with a high fever, Laura was released from the hospital.  However, a few days later she received bad news: she was not in remission and would need to start a second round of chemotherapy. Her siblings were tested to see if they were compatible but unfortunately they were not a marrow match.

A search at the Be the Match Registry was done but the doctor was not very optimistic because of the lack of Latino donors in the Registry.  However, on September of 2013, Laura receive great news: They had found a bone marrow A bone marrow match.  “I had no idea who this “person” was but I knew she was special.  This person was willing to stop her life for a short while to lend a helping hand,” said Laura.

In 2011, Grace Marie Rivera joined the Be the Match Registry at a marrow drive organized by the Icla da Silva Foundation in Puerto Rico.  She was only 18 years old at the time she joined inspired by the loss of her nephew, who had been in need of a bone marrow transplant.  “I was very happy when I joined because I knew I could someday save a life,” said Grace.

In September of 2013, two years after joining the registry, Grace was called upon to donate bone marrow to a patient.  At that time, Grace had a new born baby and was afraid but she knew that this patient’s life was in her hands. After several tests, Grace was informed that she was the best match.  The only information she had about the patient was that she was a female with leukemia.  Other personal and contact information is kept confidential until one year after the transplant. She didn’t even know Laura’s name.

The Icla da Silva Foundation organized a special meeting between Grace and Laura live on the largest Spanish TV station in Puerto Rico, Telemundo.  “There is a lot of misconception about bone marrow donation and we want to share this special moment of celebration with the public to create awareness that bone marrow donation saves lives,” said Airam da Silva, President of the Icla da Silva Foundation.

“I would like to donate again.  I feel great satisfaction and I am very proud to see Laura healthy,” said Grace.

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