LAKE FOREST, Calif. --Twin 3-year-old girls Zoey and Zayne Espayos got a chance to meet the Orange County woman who saved their lives through a bone marrow donation.
The girls flew in from Canada all the way to Southern California to meet Judiel Ennis.
"It's just exciting and very emotional. I always wanted and waited for the day to finally be able to meet them," said Ennis, a customer care supervisor at loanDepot in Lake Forest.
The girls' parents learned during pregnancy that the twins had what's called alpha thalassemia, a deadly genetic blood disorder that would leave them unable to make hemoglobin within their red blood cells.
"Before they were born, we tried a few blood transfusions in my tummy," said Reina Espayos, the twins' mother.
After their birth, they needed a bone marrow transplant. Their parents say they were desperate after their older daughter's bone marrow was rejected.
They finally found a match in Ennis, after she registered to be a donor and submitted a cheek swab through the non-profit DKMS.
"They extracted more than the normal, so that they would harvest half of it for the second twin," Ennis recalled.
DKMS says this is a medical first - identical twins being cured from the blood disorder through a bone marrow transplant.
Ennis handed Zoey and Zayne stuffed toys as she met the girls and their parents for the first time at her workplace in Lake Forest.
"The fact they just celebrated their third birthday and at the time when I did the procedure, they didn't know if they would make it to their first or second, so it's a blessing," said Ennis as she choked back tears.
"We really want to thank her personally that she gave life to my twins," Reina Espayos said.
"I have the goose bumps right now. They build my family," said the girls' father, Mark Espayos as he smiled and watched his girls play with their new toys.
"This was life-changing," said Brittani Luce, the west coast donor recruitment coordinator for DKMS. "These girls might not be here today if it wasn't for the kindness of Judiel and the fact she registered to be a donor."
As Ennis gets to know the Espayos family during their visit to California, her company loanDepot donated $30,000 to the non-profit to help in the fight against blood cancer.
"All it takes is a swab to save a life, and in my case I got to save two," Ennis said.