About six years ago, Alyssa, a medical social worker, started working at a residential facility for seriously ill children without homes. There she encountered a sick little boy who now goes by the name of “Z.”
Not yet two years old, the toddler was languishing in the facility as he awaited a bone marrow transplant. Z suffered from Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH), a rare blood disorder that affects children. In his short life, he’d already lived through a lifetime of hardship – and was utterly alone in the world. His fragile immune system required him to be isolated from other children in the facility, but he could hear them playing.
During her shifts there self evident Alyssa spent as much time as she could with Z while providing care to 11 other ill children, including tiny premature babies. She recalls the days just before and during his transplant as the most difficult. “That’s when I really got to know him,” she says. “And when they asked me to sit with him in the hospital during his transplant process, I absolutely fell in love with him.”
The little boy’s recovery was slow and challenging, but Alyssa was a constant presence. One night in the hospital, he developed a very high fever. “I sat with him as he shivered and sweated, watching Elmo on TV, and I really believed he was going to die—but I prayed that he wouldn’t,” recalls Alyssa. Although she tried to hide her despair, one of her tears fell on Z in his hospital bed—and the little boy reached out to comfort her.
Little by little, Z grew stronger. As Alyssa witnessed his progress and spirit, her love for the little boy deepened. When Z turned 5, the family decided to adopt him. They welcomed him to his first real home with their whole hearts.
The new family of three celebrated their first Christmas together with the usual treats and traditions—and all of it was new to Z. “We discovered he’d never even heard of Santa,” says Alyssa. “My husband and I were like kids on Christmas morning—we were just so excited for him that we had to wake him up!”
Today, to the family’s relief, Z is a healthy, happy and sometimes sassy 8-year-old boy. “He went from such a dark place to being so funny, smart and well-adjusted,” says Alyssa. “And he’s proud to be the fastest player on his soccer team!” He’s also a proud big brother to the family’s newest addition: Jack, age 2.
At his 6th birthday party, Z received a special gift: a chance to meet his marrow donor. “She’s an EMT and just a wonderful person,” says Alyssa. “And Z understood what he gave her—he says, ‘She gave me the good blood.’”
With two healthy sons, every day is a little like Christmas to the family. Z loves making pumpkin bread for the holidays and learning about all their family traditions.
“We’re just so grateful to Z’s donor, and to Be The Match for finding her,” says Alyssa. “There are so many ways to give, but giving to an organization like Be The Match is concentrated good. It’s a chance to help so many children and families win the lottery of life – like we did. And now we have the child of our dreams.”
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