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• Jul 27, 2018

Adriana Aviles calls TD Bank Store Manager Mike Laureano the "missing piece of the puzzle." Others call him a hero. Laureano disagrees, but it's what happens when your bone marrow donation saves the life of a 3-year-old girl.

How it happened

In 2014, Laureano was taking night classes in marketing at the University of Wilmington in Delaware. On campus, a chance encounter with representatives from Be the Match, the national bone marrow donor program, set things in motion. They told Laureano that due to the genetic complexities involved in matching a bone marrow donor to a recipient, only 1 of every 400 potential donors may get that call. Laureano, a seven-year Army veteran and frequent blood donor, said not only was it the right thing to do, but if he got that call, it was meant to be.

In 2015, he got that call. Because of privacy issues, all Be the Match could tell him was that he had matched with a 3-year-old girl with leukemia.

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Laureano quickly made the necessary arrangements. The procedure required a single night's stay in the hospital and was accompanied by mild soreness that, according to Laureano, lasted about a week.

Due to program restrictions, Laureano and his recipient had to wait a year before they could learn more about each other. When that year passed, they quickly did. Intermittent conversations quickly evolved to near constant communication. Now, Laureano texts Adriana’s mother, Jessy, almost every day. When he hears from Adriana, she nearly always tells him “Thank you for saving my life.”

Laureano’s Puerto Rican heritage was instrumental in matching with Adriana, who has a multiracial background. Currently, Be the Match’s registry is 60 percent Caucasian, so finding donor matches for minority recipients can be challenging.

This past May, a cross-country drive to California provided the perfect opportunity for Laureano to finally meet Adriana and her family in person. The route from Delaware to San Francisco took him directly through Adriana’s hometown in Utah.

Laureano takes the notion of being a "hero" with a grain of salt, preferring to put the emphasis on the fact that a life was saved, and that others may be inspired to do the same. “If you’re healthy, you can potentially save someone else’s life with a small gesture,” he said.

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