A medical student from Fort Worth donated bone marrow to save the life of a young boy in Virginia and the two met recently in person for the first time.
Seven-year-old Cooper Muncy got sick early last year and was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia.
"We had no time to think about it. We responded,” his mother Jen Muncy said. “You just go into a super parenting mode."
Cooper started chemotherapy right away.
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"I needed to get a lot of IV's in me,” he said.
His future didn't look good.
He desperately needed a bone marrow transplant to replace his own bad blood.
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In Texas years earlier, a freshman at Stephen F. Austin University had signed up on a bone marrow registry to donate hers.
Ann Hollas is now a second-year medical student at Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine in Fort Worth.
"I mean for me it was a no-brainer,” Hollas said. “I mean you have the chance to help someone in that way."
She finally got a call.
She was a match.
"We got our one in a million chance when we got Ann as our donor,” Jen Muncy said. “She was a 10 out of 10 match."
In May 2020, Hollas agreed to donate -- without knowing a thing about Cooper.
"You can't know anything about them,” Hollas said. “They didn't know much about me."
Hollas never knew Cooper would spend many weeks in the hospital with setbacks.
"He had to fight really hard during that time,” his mother said.
Hollas wondered who the recipient was and how he was doing.
"This whole past year he has been in my prayers even though I didn't know him,” she said.
Outside the hospital, friends and family prayed too.
Cooper bounced back and was finally well enough to go back home.
After a year, the transplant team allows donors and recipients to contact each other if both agree.
They both did.
"I immediately sent her a text letting her know who we were and we'd love to meet you. Would you like to Facetime?" Jen Muncy said.
They hooked up online within hours.
"It was emotional,” Hollas said. “There were a few tears on both ends.”
But that was virtual.
They knew they had to meet in person.
So a few weeks ago, Hollas flew to Virginia.
Cooper and his family went to the airport to pick her up.
"When she got to the top of the escalator, I just lost it. It's like what do you say to the person who saved your son's life?" Jen Muncy said.
Cooper was standing there with a sign that read, "Ann Hollas saved my life with her bone marrow."
But he couldn't wait as his life-saver got off the escalator.
"Cooper just ran over and gave me the biggest hug and my heart just melted,” Hollas said.
His message was clear.
"She means a lot to me for saving my life and helping me,” Cooper said.
The hug was long.
The words were few but heartfelt.
"We just said, ‘You're our hero,’” Jen Muncy said. “’You're our hero and you're incredible and thank you so much.’"
"I spent a lot of days in the hospital but now I am back home," Cooper said.
He is back home, cancer-free, and forever grateful for the generous donor who is a stranger no more.
"She's a part of our family now,” Jen Muncy said.