Imagine finally meeting someone who saved your life. Well, Ron Oppedisano of Illinois was finally given that chance when he met his bone marrow donor.
Thankfully, the transplant went smoothly. The former mayor of Norridge and his donor Samantha Nielsen were recently allowed to exchange contact information to meet for the first time.
'I felt like I could help somebody, and it could save somebody's life.'
According to the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics, 70 percent of people who need bone marrow transplants don't have matches in their families and have to rely on donors.
This was the case for Oppedisano when he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2010.
He underwent several rounds of chemotherapy before going into remission. But Norridge-Harwood Heights News he relapsed a couple of years later and was in dire need of a bone marrow transplant.
According to the National Institutes of Health, bone marrow transplants replace bone marrow that's been destroyed through chemotherapy or other radiation treatments.
Nobody in Oppedisano's family was a perfect bone marrow match, so he enrolled in the Be The Match marrow registry in hopes of finding one. After he enrolled, all he could do was wait.
But the wait stopped abruptly when Nielsen from Texas, who was only 21 years old at the time, was willing to donate. Dr. Patrick Stiff from the Loyola University Medical Center said Nielsen was a "10 out of 10 perfect match." Oppedisano told ABC that no words can express how much he owes her.
'Every day I wake up and thank God that I'm here.' Of Nielson, he says, 'I wouldn't be here without you, I mean that.'
Nielsen says she feels like this was just a small sacrifice. The two decided to celebrate their reunion by participating in a run to raise donations and awareness for the Be The Match foundation.