By Luke Kenton
A three-year-old who overcame a 10 percent survival rate to beat rare cancer diagnosis was made a flower girl at the wedding of the woman who saved her life.
Life got off to a rocky start for little Skye Savren-McCormick, after she was diagnosed with juvenile myelomonocyte leukemia (JMML) – a rare and aggressive form of blood cancer – just weeks before her first birthday.
Affecting only one in every million children in her age group, the tiny tot from Ventura, California, USA, was in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant.
Thankfully, an anonymous donor from seven states away had been identified as the perfect match.
Carrying just a 50 percent chance of success, Skye underwent two separate marrow transplants, but unfortunately then fell ill with post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder – a secondary form of cancer – leaving her with just a 10 percent chance of survival.
Despite having to endure seven rounds of chemotherapy, several MRI scans, and battle with a depleted immune system, Skye defied the adversely overwhelming odds and survived.
But a long lingered in the mind of Skye’s relieved mother, Talia, was the urge to put a name and face to the person behind her daughter’s life-saving donation – and thanks to charitable organization Be The Match, she was able to.
Talia, 34, said: “Once Skye was diagnosed with JMML, we knew the only chance she had to survive was with a bone marrow transplant.
“Every round of chemotherapy had wiped her out.
“Her immune system was compromised for several months, so it made it easier for her to get infections and viruses.
“After being on the donor registry for a little over a month, they found her a match.
“Once she had that final transplant she started feeling really well.
“She started walking – she hadn’t walked in her entire life.
“She was a happy person; she was the person she was supposed to be and who she is capable of being.
“I’m so thankful they found Hayden as a donor.”
Receiving an anonymous letter mediated through the donation agency, Be The Match, Talia and her husband, Todd, read the words of their daughter’s donor, who expressed her delight at being able to contribute to her recovery.
Jumping at the opportunity to speak directly with the donor – later revealed to be 26-year-old Hayden Ryals, of Hartford Alabama – the strangers living over 2,000 miles apart immediately felt a mutual connection with one another, as if they’d “been family all along.”
After exchanging a series of text messages, Hayden sent Skye a birthday present in March, accompanied with a card confessing that she was getting married and her special day would be incomplete without Skye attending as her flower girl.
Still on oxygen at the time of the invitation, Skye managed to overcome a serious lung infection to attend the ceremony and meet her donor for the first time in person, on June 9, where Hayden admits the now 3-year-old stole the show.
Hayden, who originally registered to become a bone marrow donor in April 2015, said: “I’ve always been passionate about donating blood.
“I knew the chances of being a match [for bone marrow] were slim, but the fact there was a chance of some form to help someone was worth it to me.
“I was contact a year after I registered, in April 2016, and it was so surreal – all I knew was the recipient was a one-year-old girl.
“I didn’t know her name or where she was in the world, but I already felt a special connection with her.
“She already meant so much to me and I wanted to do all I could for her and her family.
“I felt so lucky that Talia and Todd wanted to communicate with me, as much as I did them – I felt like I’d known them all my life.
“This past March, I sent Skye a birthday present and included a wedding invitation – it was so important to me to have her there.
“I met them for the first time the night before and I never thought I could love her more than I already did before I met her – she melted my heart.
“Having Skye there was absolutely magical – it was already the perfect day, and having her there made it the ultimate fairytale.
“You could hear sobs throughout the sanctuary as she walked down the aisle, because so many people already knew who she was.”
Talia added: “It was almost surreal to meet Hayden – her and Skye are completely smitten for each other.
“It’s like they’ve known each other their whole lives and they were old friends meeting up again.
“We all plan on being in each other’s lives forever.
“I look forward to watching her grow up and start her own family – we are so lucky to have her in our lives.
“Skye is now considered to be in remission.
“She is a miracle that continues to make me so proud.”
Footage comes courtesy of Joshua Bane Videography ( http://joshuabane.com/) and Mark Broadway Photography ( http://www.markbroadway.com/ )