NEW HAVEN -- The Guarraia family is spending this Christmas at Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital and there's been a lot of tears.
“My wife called and she was crying on the phone which floored me, because when my wife's called me crying in recent history, it's been catastrophic news,” said Matt Guarraia.
But those were happy sobs. The family just found out Anthony, their 19-month-old, is the link to save his sister Madeline’s life.
“Women from the transplant team came in … and they had these huge smiles on their face and they just said, ‘We have a match!’" said Amie Guarraia, Anthony’s and Madeline's mother and Matt's wife.
Doctors recently diagnosed the Guarraia’s eldest child, Madeline, 8, with leukemia for the second time. They said she not only needs chemotherapy, but also a bone marrow transplant. Medical experts told the family that likely meant a national search for a donor because Madeline’s best bet, her siblings, only had a 25 percent chance of matching.
“Madeline has blue eyes, my other kids had brown eyes. I'm thinking, ‘Oh, they’re not going to be a match,’” said Matt Guarraia.
Deep down, Anthony’s parents knew he’d be the one.
“He was definitely meant to be,” said Amie Guarraia. “I got pregnant with him at the end of Madeline's treatment, so we were totally surprised thinking, 'How are we going to do this?' You know? She was still going through so much.”
“Madeline is a very tough girl,” her husband added. “I wouldn't describe her as maternal, but when Anthony came, that one side of her comes out now. She's so nurturing to him.”
It’s a bond that’ll only grow closer now.
“Ten out of 10 markers of everything you need to find. They couldn't find a better match than my son,” said Matt Guarraia of test results, which are a Christmas gift that’ll keep on giving.
“It was a very awesome moment and a very huge feeling of relief,” said Amie Guarraia.
She said Madeline needs to go through several rounds of chemotherapy before the details of Anthony’s bone marrow transplant are worked out. She said his age and size shouldn't be a problem for the donation.
Madeline's parents said her holiday wish is for everyone to participate in a bone marrow drive. It's a quick swab of the cheek to see if there's a match to someone in need.
Click here to find out how to receive a bone marrow donation kit by mail. And if you want donate in Madeline’s name, enter swab4madeline when prompted.