Bone marrow donor meets young recipient and his family

Little Evan Garcia slept soundly in his mother’s arms on Monday as his parents were introduced to the Aurora city employee whose anonymous bone marrow donation in 2007 saved his life.

The Garcia family traveled from their Jasper, Texas, home this week to thank Mary Garza and help promote a drive for potential bone marrow donors this Wednesday in Aurora.

“I don’t think words are adequate,” said Melissa Garcia, joined in a City Hall conference room by her husband, Rogelio, and daughter, Isabella. “What can you say to someone who saved your child’s life?”

Evan underwent a bone marrow transplant in late 2007 to cure a case of Chronic granulomatous disease, a rare immune disorder. Today he’s a healthy, active 2-year-old with excellent prospects for a long life.

The road to the cure started in May 2007 when Garza read a local newspaper story about a similar battle faced by the family of then 21-month-old Felipe Aguilera, who lived in Aurora. The story prompted Garza to sign up with the Be the Match national marrow registry, which coordinates donors and recipients.

“Most of the credit should go to Felipe’s mother and her energy and motivation to save her child,” said Garza, a civil engineer for the city. “I read that article, and I couldn’t believe it. That women had to fight every single day for her baby. … I had to do whatever I could.”

It turned out she couldn’t help Felipe, but she did match Evan.

Anonymity is preserved for at least a year. So Garza, who has two young daughters with her husband, Mike, did not learn who got the donation until February.

The families had not met before Monday.

“He’s like an angel,” said Garza as she gently touched Evan’s head and back.

Aurora’s Bone Marrow Drive runs from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall, 44 E. Downer Pl. It’s open to adults 18 to 61.

“It’s a simple [saliva] swab that takes 40 seconds and there’s simple application, just your name and medical information,” said Julie Contreras, a Be the Match representative. “If you are compatible with someone the National Marrow program will contact you.”

She said the database is in particular need of more African-American and Latino donors.

And a match has been found for Felipe and he’s scheduled for a bone marrow transplant Wednesday.

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