Monday, July 2, 2012

Words are not enough...

This is the letter I have just penned to the bone marrow donor. I have been putting off this letter for awhile, consciously or subconsciously, I don't know, and the only reason I can think of, besides that this child keeps my hands full at all times, is that I didn't have the words to express what a gift this man has given me. What could I possibly say that could even come close to the gratitude I feel every day? How could ink on paper possibly convey the magnitude of what he has done for her, for me, for our family and everyone who loves this child? But it needed to be done, this man deserves to know how grateful we are, insipid or not, so I bit the bullet and wrote this (try not to laugh):

July 1, 2012

Dear Sir:
My name is Adriana Gonzalez, and my daughter is Sarah Elizabeth Gomez. She is four and a half years old at the date this letter was written, and she was the recipient of your bone marrow donation on March 29, 2012. I cannot express to you in words how much this simple act meant to our family, but in order for you to understand, I would like to provide a little background about our family, Sarah especially. I want you to know how truly miraculous and amazing it was that you did this for our family.
I lost three babies before Sarah came. I have wanted a child my entire life, and this was devastating to me. I had three stepchildren, but I desperately wanted a child of my own. Then Sarah came, and for the first year of her life, she was perfect. She was perfectly healthy, she was beautiful, smart, everything I could have ever asked for in a child, and so much more. We had one perfect year. Then, she had a febrile seizure (a seizure brought on by a sudden spike in her body temperature) at 13 months, and her health started to steadily decline from there. At 20 months, after a nasty tumble caused a hairline fracture in her hip, a fever I couldn’t get rid after a month, and a rock star pediatrician who refused to do anything about it and told me I was over-mothering, I took Sarah to the ER, they ran some tests, sent us to the Children’s Hospital of Orange County, and they confirmed that Sarah had ALL, or Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Basically, that means that her blood is producing too many white cells, and the ones that are being produced are immature and not able to do their job properly, which is to fight infection. She received two years of chemo, and many hardships due to side effects. She was in the hospital every other month due to a fever, because her counts were low. I had to quit my job to care for Sarah (I am a grade-school teacher), and things were tough financially.
We got through it, and after two years of chemo, we could see the light at the end of the tunnel. She was supposed to be done in January. Imagine our complete heartbreak when the doctor called me in December (on my mother’s birthday, no less!) to tell me that Sarah had contracted a secondary cancer, AML (Acute Myeloid Leukemia). Basically, this cancer is much more aggressive, much harder to treat, and has a much lower survival rate, 50% as opposed to the 80-90% with ALL for Sarah’s age group. We were scheduled to come in to the hospital immediately for three very aggressive rounds of chemo, a month each, far more excruciating than anything she had been through in the past two years. At the end of the third round, Sarah was to receive a bone marrow transplant, if we could find a match for her, which the doctor said was not very likely because of her heritage and her family structure. My husband is Native American, and I am Mexican-American. Sarah has three half siblings, but she is my only child with my husband, and a natural sibling is the best possible chance for a match. My husband was close, but not close enough. The doctor said that we were probably going to have to resort to using cord blood for Sarah’s transplant, because the chances of finding a perfect match in a non-related donor were one in a million. He said we had a better chance of winning the lottery.
You, sir, are that winning lottery ticket! You were a perfect match for our baby girl, who is strong, and vibrant, bossy, smart and so funny. She is so advanced for her age, and well-loved by everyone she meets. She is bossy, but well-mannered and kind-hearted. She is mischievous and playful, she likes to tease. Lalaloopsy dolls are her life. She likes movies and music, and books. LOTS of books! Her favorite color is pink. She has so much energy! The hardest thing in the world was to just see her lying there in a hospital bed, and you gave us our little girl back. These words sound so insipid, sir. They are not enough to tell you the gift that you have given me. Through this process, I have seen children not make it. Thanks to you, good sir, for saving me from that pain, for giving my daughter another chance at a real, normal life.
I have heard that there are donors who decide against donation at the last minute, that bow out once they are called upon. Thank you, thank you, thank you, a million times over for not bowing out. You were a 100% perfect match for our daughter, and your marrow fit perfectly within her veins, so much so, that she even got out of the hospital a month early, and has had no complications since! (Despite the fact that she fell out of bed the other day and broke her collar bone! This child keeps me on my toes, that’s for sure!)
You saved Sarah’s life, sir. You saved my life. You saved my heart, you saved my soul, because you saved this little girl.
I have enclosed some pictures of Sarah, so that you can see for yourself the amazing thing that you have done. I understand completely if you are opposed to this, but I would be honored for the opportunity to thank you in person, and I would love for you to meet Sarah. All I know of you is that you are male. They wouldn’t tell me anything else, and they said that the only way I could communicate with you is to forward a letter through our case coordinator, so I am doing so now. My information is all on the heading to this letter, and should you choose to communicate, I would be honored to receive your missive. Should you not, then please know how eternally grateful we are as a family that you have given our Sarah back to us, and that you are included in our nightly prayers, and in our hearts forever.

Adriana Gonzalez, grateful mother of
Sarah Gomez, age 4 1/2

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