“My hero, my warrior, my sister.” One patient saved by two donors who stepped up to make a difference

Posted December 7th, 2016 by Be The Match and filed in News
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Briana (middle) with her family and marrow donors, Jose and Fernando (to the right and left of her).

Briana (middle) with her family and marrow donors, Jose and Fernando (to the right and left of her).

Briana had been crowned Homecoming Queen and was in the top five percent of her graduating class. She’d just been accepted to the University of Texas at Austin. But in March 2014, her dreams for the future were shattered when she was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia. Her only hope for a cure was to find a matching marrow donor—a stranger who would come forward to save her life.

“Instead of preparing for college, I had to watch all of my friends begin without me,” she said. “It was a struggle to accept things weren’t going the way I planned.”

Briana’s doctors searched the Be The Match Registry for a donor, and in December, Briana and her family rejoiced when a matched donor was found. She received her transplant, and her faith in the future was restored. The family’s focus shifted to supporting Briana on her long road to recovery.

But their hopes were dashed again, when the donated cells did not engraft. The transplant had bought her time, but it had not been a success.

Briana had to find the strength inside herself to keep fighting. “My mind was just focused on getting through each day, not all the days to come,” she said. “I had come too far to just give up.”

Fortunately, another donor was found. And in March 2015, after going through another round of chemotherapy and radiation, Briana received her second transplant. Despite complications—including infections that required multiple surgeries—the second transplant was a success.

Today, Briana is a healthy 20-year-old with a unique perspective on life. “I went through something most people my age never have to experience, or even think about. I know now what kind of a woman I want to be. I’m going to change the world. There is nothing I cannot do.”

Briana’s transplant journey came full circle in November 2016 when she got to meet both of her donors, Jose and Fernando.

Her first donor, Jose, had been disappointed that his donation had not been a cure—but he was grateful to be part of the process that got Briana to her second transplant.

“The most memorable part of donating was the feeling that I was part of a life-saving experience,” Jose said. “I finally had a purpose in life to save someone else in this world.”

Briana’s second donor, Fernando, was equally moved by the experience. “The real heroes are the patients who overcome their illness, which affects them, that causes them anguish and pain. That is why Briana is my hero, my warrior and my sister.”

3 Responses to ““My hero, my warrior, my sister.” One patient saved by two donors who stepped up to make a difference”

  1. John Guzman says:

    Super blessed to hear this story, it’s stories like Briana’s that continues to give my family and I hope for the future. Our daughter Grace was also diagnosed with aplastic anemia 6 years ago when she was 4 yrs old. In a 2 year span we spent 13 months in the hospital with our longest stay being 7 months straight. We had set back after set back during our stay. She spent 2 weeks in ICU twice, once for a brain bleed (stroke) and once for having a serious reaction causing her brain damage while receiving ATG treatment. Despite the set backs, the pain, the sorrow and seeing her not being able to have a normal life (she’s now special needs) we are especially thankful to still have her with us. She’s now 10 years old and were living out our “New Normal” as a family. Blessings to you and your family Briana and may you have a blessed Christmas and a happy New Year.

    Enjoying today,

    Guzman Family

  2. Katherine says:

    Stay strong. Keeping you all in our prayers. God bless you and your family and your precious daughter.

  3. DENISE STANTON says:

    My daughter was in the hospital for her BMT for very high risk ALL at the same time as Briana. I met her and her mother then and got to know them more at my daughter’s follow up appointments when we would often run into each other. What an inspiring young lady she is! I have not seen them in a while since she is off at UT (yeah!) and we are back home in Boerne (yeah!), but I follow her in FB and am so happy for her and her family!

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