Hayden Hatfield Ryals had forged a close bond with 3-year-old Skye Savren-McCormick, so she asked the toddler to be a flower girl in her wedding.
But they weren’t related, they weren’t neighbors, and they weren’t family friends.
Their closeness comes from the fact that a part of Ryals literally lived within Skye. Ryals provided Skyke with life-saving bone marrow transplant.
Skye had come down with myelomonocytic leukemia, a rare and aggressive form of childhood leukemia, a few years before the before the 26-year-old’s wedding.
Ryals put herself on the bone marrow donor list and received a phone call about a year after to help an anonymous 1-year-old child who lived miles away.
“I had started to question whether I had a purpose here,” she told The Washington Post. “That phone call gave me a purpose.”
Skye suffered complications and was diagnosed with a second kind of cancer after the initial transplant. She needed chemotherapy which ended up wiping out Ryals’ bone marrow transplant.
She needed a peripheral blood stem cells transplant after that from another donor.
But Ryals’ donation was still crucial to Skye’s recovery.
“If Hayden hadn’t donated her bone marrow, our daughter would not have made it [to] her other donation,” Skye’s dad said. “She got us to a place where we could survive this.”
But Ryals insists that she didn’t save Skye.
“It has always been the other way around,” she said. “She helped me. She saved me. … She’s the real hero.”
Skye and Ryals remained closed even after the donation. They would correspond through letters, phone calls, and toys and trinkets sent through the mail.
Skye meant so much to Ryals that she wanted to her be a part of her wedding.
They met for the first time in the church the day before the wedding. Ryals was so overwhelmed with emotion that she dropped to her knees when she met Skye who affectionately calls her “Hay-Hay.”
“I walked up and I just dropped to my knees and all I could do was smile,” Ryals told ABC’s World News Tonight.
When Skye walked down the aisle, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
“I didn’t want to take my eyes off her,” Hatfield Ryals. “Knowing she was not only there but that she was part of this life event for me, I was the most humbled person. They just don’t understand how important they are to me.”
Learn more about the incredible bond between these two in the video below.
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