CHICAGO — A cancer survivor's emotional reunion with the young donor who helped save her life was only possible because of the popularity of online DNA tests.
It was a face-to-face meeting 20 years in the making when Dania Davey, her son Patrick, and Holly Becker got together at Loyola University Medical Center Sunday.
Becker's saga began In 1997, when the then 24-year-old was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. At Stage 4, doctors said her condition was grave.
There were no bone marrow matches, so doctors at Loyola University Medical Center turned to umbilical cord donation. The anonymous donor was newborn Patrick Davey of New York, and his new mom agreed to donate the cord.
Loyola's Dr. Patrick Stiff said by using this method they can match 100 percent of their patients because unlike bone marrow, umbilical cord donation does not have to be a 100 percent match.
They parted ways for 20 years, and likely would never have met had it not been for Ancestry.com. Without knowing each other, Davey and Becker both did the test and found they were somehow related. After connecting online, they finally realized it was all about the cord donation 20 years ago.
"It's the craziest thing. It’s surreal to me," Holly Becker said.
Dr. Stiff said this is the first time they've heard of such a connection happening.
"Confidentiality is critical and to date we are aware of no other instance where a patient has met their cord transplant donor so it is truly a first of a kind,” Dr. Stiff said.
After so many emails and phone calls, the miracle match-up culminated in hugs and tears.
"I'm so grateful to have been put in a situation where I’m at," Patrick Davey said. "The technology is unbelievable."
Dania said Becker is now "part of our family."
"You know we’re connected forever," Becker said.