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Young lawyer receives a bone marrow transplant, then surprises the donor

Gabriel Massote / Facebook (Reprodução)

Aleteia - published on 01/15/20

"I did something simple, which was to donate my bone marrow, and I gained an angel in my life."

A young lawyer named Gabriel Massote, from Uberlândia (a city in southeastern Brazil), was diagnosed with leukemia at age 26. In his search for a cure, he had chemotherapy for almost a year and a half and was discharged.However, his blood cancer returned in a more aggressive form. His treatment options were reduced to a single one: a bone marrow transplant.

Brazilian news outlet Sempre Familia shared his story. It recounts how more than a thousand miles away, in a small town in the state of Rondônia, an unemployed hairdresser named Elza dos Santos came across a series of posters near a supermarket in the city of Ariquemes and went to see what they were about. That’s how she heard for the first time about bone marrow donation.

After learning about what was involved, Elza signed up as a donor.

In the meantime, Gabriel was still waiting for a compatible donor. There were none in his family. In fact, the odds of him finding a match in the Bone Marrow Donor Registry in Brazil were approximately 1 in 100,000 — so low that the lawyer thought he wouldn’t survive.

“I’ve been through some pretty tough times. I didn’t leave the hospital for almost a year,” he told Sempre Familia.

Gabriel, however, was blessed by an almost impossible solution. In Rondônia, Elza was contacted by the Registry and informed that her marrow was compatible with that of a person in need of a transplant. She didn’t know who the beneficiary would be, but she didn’t need to know him to have empathy. She told Sempre Familia, “I put myself in his mother’s place because I also have two children and I’d do anything for them.”

She traveled to Rio Grande do Norte, on the opposite side of Brazil, for the bone marrow transplant procedure. The first attempt, in November 2013, didn’t work. Elza was called again so doctors could collect a different type of cells. She promptly accepted and made a second trip, this time to São Paulo (another long journey), in order to repeat the process. Gabriel, now 35, told the story to the Sempre Família website. He concludes, “She saved me twice, and today 100% of my blood cells are Elza’s.”

Deeply grateful, Gabriel wanted to discover the identity of the donor and do something in return.

“When I met Elza and found out that she and her husband were unemployed and living in borrowed space behind a church, I was sure I should help them.”

The lawyer then signed up for television game shows in an attempt to win resources to give a house to the woman who had given him a new life. Unfortunately, he ended up without any prize money.

He did not give up, though; he launched a crowdfunding campaign on the internet and in a few days 465 people, moved by Elza’s story, donated a total of $117,000 Brazilian reais, about $28,500 American dollars. It was thanks to this generosity from strangers that the house where Elza and her family live today could be bought and renovated. And not only the house: last October 19, Elza opened a new beauty salon, so that she could exercise her trade and earn enough income to maintain her home and business.

Elza went from being a generous donor to being the emotional recipient of an almost unbelievable gift.

“I was just a drop of water in the life of this young man I didn’t know, but today he’s the whole ocean in my life,” she told Sempre Familia. “I never imagined this would all be happening, and I just have to be grateful. After all, I did something simple, which was to donate my bone marrow, and I gained an angel in my life.”


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