NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. — There's a lot going on in the world of your average 13-year-old.
Even more when that teen is fighting for her life.
That was the scenario for Gwen Cinquemani of New Rochelle, New York, who three years ago was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder called MDS that frequently leads to leukemia. Gwen and her family were floored, as she was a non-stop kid who loved cheerleading and being active.
The diagnosis led to a year of regular hospital visits, blood tests and platelet counts. Doctors told Gwen she needed a bone marrow transplant. She is a triplet, but tests showed that neither of her brothers was a match.
"There's really nothing worse than a sick child, your child," Gwen's mother Tiffany Cinquemani said in an interview with NBC New York. "It was earth shattering... a really difficult road."
That's where 35-year-old Minnesota resident Haven Davis stepped in. The Twin Cities teacher had recently become a marrow donor with Minneapolis-based Be The Match after listening to a podcast about someone whose donation saved a life. The nonprofit's registry revealed she was a suitable donor for Gwen.
"It's a 14-year-old girl, OK, I'm in," Davis recalls thinking at the time. "There were no other questions after that point."
Haven's marrow was harvested for the teen and the procedure was a success. Gwen recovered from her MDS, and gradually resumed her "normal" life.
Fast-forward two years, to the Be The Match New York gala on April 7. Gwen, now 17, was on stage when organizers called Haven out to join her. The two had communicated online, but had never met in person. They wasted no time in sharing a huge hug in front of an emotional crowd.
"For me, it was really exciting," Gwen shared while sitting with her family and new friend backstage after the gala. "I didn't know this was how I was going to meet Haven, but I've been thinking about it for a while now."
"I think I'm going to be thinking about it for the rest of my life, I don't really know how to fully process kind of the depth of what has happened," Davis told reporters.
Be The Match is always looking for new bone marrow donors to step up like Haven did. They hope stories like Gwen's will raise awareness and funds for the mission.
"She absolutely saved my daughter's life," insisted Tiffany Cinquemani. "Without her I don't know where we'd be today."
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