Life

Bride Donated Bone Marrow To Save A Stranger’s Baby. The Child Lived And Walked Down The Aisle As Her Flower Girl

Every single person who attended Hayden Hatfield Ryals’ wedding had a hard time fighting back tears when they saw 3-year-old Skye Savren-McCormick walk down the aisle as the flower girl.

Skye and Hayden share a history that spans years back to 2015 when Hayden was facing a difficult time. Hayden was confused about what she wanted to do in life and struggled to find her purpose. A year later, she received a phone call from a bone marrow center and was told there was a 1-year-old child in need of a marrow transplant and Hayden was a match.

Hayden recalls, “I had started to question whether I had a purpose here. That phone call gave me a purpose.”

The 1-year-old child was Skye who developed petechiae, which are small purple spots that develop on the skin from broken blood vessels. The condition disappeared and eventually returned and Skye kept getting sick.

Soon after her first birthday, Skye was diagnosed with juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia, a rare form of blood cancer that occurs when bone marrow production of white blood cells becomes disregulated.

Skye was in need of a bone marrow transplant.

On July 28, 2016, Hayden had some of her bone marrow extracted in Alabama. One day later, doctors in California transplanted the bone marrow into Skye’s bloodstream.

Credit: Talia Savren-McCormick

Skye’s recovery after the procedure was filled with several complications. She developed a bacterial infection and had to have her spleen removed. She also needed a second transplant, but fortunately Hayden had donated enough bone marrow for two procedures.

Skye ran into more hurdles when doctors diagnosed her with another form of cancer, post-transplant lymphoproliferative disease. The cancer spread to her eyelids, chest, spinal column, and the sides of her neck. Skye needed chemotherapy and that meant she would also need another bone marrow transplant.

Due to regulations on bone marrow donations, Skye would need to find a different donor. Skye’s parents were able to find another donor on the Be the match registry, and this time around they planned to use stem cells instead of bone marrow.

Credit: Talia Savren-McCormick

Skye’s father, Todd, affirmed that although another donor was needed, Hayden was a hero. He explains,

If Hayden hadn’t donated her bone marrow, our daughter would not have made it [to] her other donation. She got us to a place where we could survive this.

However, Hayden doesn’t view herself as a hero. Instead, she believes Skye saved her.

Hayden said, “It has always been the other way around. She helped me. She saved me. She’s the real hero.”

Throughout the past year, Hayden had kept in touch with Skye by sending gifts, but they had never met in person. For Skye’s third birthday, Hayden sent an Elsa doll, a blanket, and an invitation to her wedding.

Hayden also told Skye’s parents that it would be an honor if Skye could be the flower girl at her wedding. At the time, Skye was on oxygen and fighting graft-versus-host disease after getting her stem-cell transplants. However, as the wedding got closer, Skye was able to recover and her parents were able to take her to Hartford, where the wedding would take place.

Credit: Mark Broadway Photography

Skye instantly recognized Hayden, as she joyfully responded “Hay-Hay”, Skye’s nickname for Hayden, when her mom asked who the bride was.

Hayden recalled meeting Skye as a fairy tale. She said,

I can’t believe I’m finally meeting this little girl.’ . . . It was unreal. It was magical.

On the day of Hayden’s wedding. Skye followed the “step, step, routine” she had practiced to a to a tee. All the guests watched Skye cross the church aisle with tears running down their faces.

Credit: Mark Broadway Photography

Afterwards, it was Hayden’s turn to walk. Her groom, Adrian, was standing at the end of the aisle carrying a bouquet that had a gift from Skye and her parents. It was a locket that had Skye’s picture on one side and a message on the other that said,

This heart beats with yours.

Hayden said, “I’ve never been able to describe our bond. I’ve never been able to explain it. That was the most perfect way I have ever heard it described.”

The newly-wed also feels like she has known Skye and her parents for her whole life, and Skye’s father felt the same way. He said, “It’s sort of like we got a new family in Alabama and it’s been joyous.”

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