DALLAS, Texas (WABC) -- Sometimes there are angels who step into our lives, angels we don't even know. That was the case for a woman in Texas, when a man from New York offered his bone marrow for a life-saving transplant.
Often, donors and recipients never get a chance to meet. But not this time.
For three and a half years, a thread of emails connected Danielle Stephens and David Rutherford. But their story actually began 8 years ago.
Stephens had acute myeloid leukemia, and at 39 years old, the mother of two needed a bone marrow transplant to survive.
"I would've died if I didn't find a match," she said.
Right now in the U.S., 14,000 people are waiting for a bone marrow match. Yet only 2 percent of Americans are registered as potential donors. Rutherford happened to be one of the names on the national registry.
"Senior year of high school, a classmate of mine came down with leukemia," he said. "We held an event at the end of the year where everyone in my grade and a lot of the school people showed up, swabbed their DNA and submitted it."
Only 40 percent of patients will ever find a match, because there simply aren't enough donors.
"When I didn't think I had the strength to fight this dreadful disease, I got the most wonderful phone call that anyone can imagine," Stephens said.
She recently shared her story at a small breakfast honoring bone marrow recipients, and that's when she got a huge surprise.
"A selfless 25-year-old man was willing to donate his bone marrow to a complete stranger in hopes that she can live out the rest of her life," she told the crowd. "I haven't met my hero dave in person, but we've emailed numerous times."
But mid-sentence, there was an interruption.
"We've invited a very special guest, ladies and gentlemen," the interrupter announced. "Meet Dave Rutherford."
Rutherford had flown to Dallas to meet Stephens face to face for the first time.
"I just don't know what could be better than saving someone else's life," he said.
For more information on bone marrow donation, visit BeTheMatch.org/ or DKMS.org.
Bone marrow recipient meets donor in emotional moment
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