In March 2014, Briana was a high school senior who had been crowned Homecoming Queen, was in the top five percent of her graduating class and had just been accepted to the University of Texas at Austin. Then one grim Friday, her bright future was put on hold when she was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia. For Briana, the news was devastating.
“Instead of preparing for college, I had to watch all of my friends begin without me,” she said. “It was a struggle to accept things weren’t going the way I planned, but over time I started to realize that everything was going to be okay.”
That December, Briana and her family rejoiced when they thought she was starting down the road to recovery after receiving a bone marrow transplant. Three weeks later, their elation was subdued when doctors told the family that the transplant was not successful. Although initially overcome, Briana said she knew she had to find the strength inside herself to keep fighting.
“My mind was just focused on getting through each day, not all the days to come,” she said. “I had come too far to just give up on my situation.”
After going through chemotherapy and radiation again, Briana had her second transplant in March 2015. Thankfully, this transplant was a success, but it was not without complications. Briana developed many infections, including a severe fungal infection in her sinuses that required four surgeries to correct.
As a now healthy twenty year old, Briana said going through two transplants have been pivotal moments in her life.
“I went through things that most people my age never have to experience or even have to think about,” she said. “I know now what kind of a woman I want to be and how I am going to go about doing so. I am going to change the world. There is nothing I cannot do.”
Briana’s transplant journey came full circle in November 2016 when she had the opportunity to meet both of her donors, Jose and Fernando, in Minneapolis. The connection was immediate.
“We donors can be heroes, but for me we just give life to those who need it,” Fernando said. “The real heroes are the patients who overcome their illness which affects them, that causes them anguish and pain. That is why Briana is my hero, my warrior and my sister.”
About Be The Match®
At Be The Match, we work every day to help patients like Briana suffering from blood cancers and other diseases. We are a community of donors, volunteers, health care professionals and researchers who deliver cures by helping patients get the life-saving marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant they need.
Like Briana, 70 percent of patients in need of a transplant don’t have a fully matched donor in their family. They depend on Be The Match and the life-saving gift of anonymous donors like Fernando and Jose.
To learn more about Be The Match and to become a committed member of the Be The Match Registry®, visit BeTheMatch.org.