Duke transplant patient pours her heart into giving back

DURHAM, North Carolina -- A North Carolina teenager whose life was saved by a cord blood transplant is putting her heart into giving back.

Four years ago, Sosa Evbuomwan became the first pediatric patient in the world to be cured of sickle cell disease via a cord blood transplant.

While receiving treatment at Duke, she and her family received shelter and support from the Ronald McDonald House in Durham. Now, she is making sure other families can do the same.

For Sosa, coming to the Ronald McDonald house is coming home. She and her family spent more than 200 days here when she was undergoing treatment for sickle cell disease. After a stem cell transplant in 2011 failed, Sosa received an experimental cord blood transplant.

"It was a lot more rigorous than what I had gone through in the previous transplant," Sosa said. "I went through 23 rounds of chemo in 10 days. Before you knew it, I was doing a double nicord cord blood transplant over at Duke Hospital on October 31st of 2012."

Fast forward to today, and this 17-year-old high school senior is healthy, happy and college bound. But she will never forget the time she spent in suite 363. Her artwork sits above the door, and a sign outside the room that she has now adopted. Donating enough money -- more than $5,000 to support other families.

"Sosa raised the money to sponsor that room for a year, so every family that stays in that room for a year doesn't have to worry about what to pay or what they're going to do for lodging," said Nancy Jones of Ronald McDonald House.

But the families and their young fighters who stay here receive so much more than just a room.

"I'm not the same person I was before the transplant," Sosa said. "I like to think I'm a better version of who I was, and I'm very grateful for the House. I wasn't who I wanted to be and the House helped me get to a better version of that."

"The bottom line is Sosa is a miracle," Jones said. "Her cure is a miracle, but the fact that she has such a caring and giving heart is just the icing the cake for us."

A special gift for the "House that Love Built" -- just in time for Valentine's Day.
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