SALT LAKE CITY — When Adriana Aviles saw the man who saved her life pull up outside her home in St. George, tears streamed down her face.
The 7-year-old was filled with emotions as she prepared to finally meet Mike Laureano, an Army veteran who saved her with a bone marrow donation years prior.
Adriana was diagnosed with leukemia at age 4 and wasn’t responding to treatment, USA Today reports.
Around the same time, Laureano was taking classes at Wilmington University in Delaware and one day stopped at a table on campus and agreed to register with the Be The Match registry to become a potential donor. Laureano had served eight years in the National Guard and completed a tour of duty in Iraq before coming in contact with the registry.
Only about one in 430 members of the registry in the U.S. actually go on to donate bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells, according to the organization’s website.
“In my mind, I pretty much just thought that, if I did happen to match somebody … it was meant to be,” Laureano said in a video shared by USA Today’s Militarykind.
A year later, he got a call from the organization and learned he was a potential match for Adriana. Laureano didn’t hesitate to move forward with the donation.
Two years after the successful surgery, Laureano received a touching Facebook message from Adriana’s mom, Jessy Aviles. The message included photos and videos of the girl he had helped save.
Laureano always wanted to meet Adriana and her family, and when the opportunity came up during a cross-country road trip this year, he took it.
He was traveling from Delaware to California with a friend and decided to stop in St. George on May 11 to finally meet Adriana.
“I was excited the entire time but still nervous because I have this, you know, ‘hero’ title,” he said. “You don’t know what to expect going in, but I was just happy to meet them in person.”
The emotional meeting captured on video shows Jessy and Adriana opening the house’s door to a smiling and waving Laureano.
Adriana instantly extends her arms and walks towards Laureano who welcomes her with a warm hug.
In the most heartwarming moment of all, Adriana tells Laureano, “Thank you so much!” through sobs as the two continue hugging.
In my mind, I pretty much just thought that, if I did happen to match somebody … it was meant to be.
Throughout the end of the video, Adriana and her twin sister continue hugging Laureano each chance they get. There’s no doubt they understand his impact on their lives.
For Laureano, the part that touched him the most was how such a young girl could go through a life-changing experience and understand its magnitude.
“Even though she’s so young she knows what she went through,” he said in the video. “She knows that without this procedure — getting rid of the bad stuff inside of her — you know, she might not be here.”
And she does understand.
When asked why she’s so thankful for her donor, she doesn’t hesitate to reply, “Because he saved my life.”