Cuban Woman Flies to Miami To Donate Bone Marrow to Sister
- Submitted by: lena campos
- Health and Medicine
- 12 / 24 / 2013
A Cuban woman arrived at Miami International Airport Monday, determined to save her sister's life.
Damay Ortega, a 43-year-old northwest Miami mother and wife, has been fighting an aggressive form of leukemia since July. Dozens of chemotherapy sessions later, her body is exhausted.
Her sister Alina Ortega wants to help her with a bone marrow transplant – and after a visa battle, she landed at MIA Monday.
In the foreign arrivals section of the airport there was a happiness so deep it caused tears. In a tight embrace, and through kisses, the two sisters expressed relief, and an overwhelming sense of hope.
"I want to thank God for bringing me to this country so I can help my little sister who's sick," Alina Ortega said in Spanish.
Their reunion was six years in the making, and bittersweet.
What's bringing them together is Damay Ortega's only hope at a second chance.
"After six years of not seeing her, I get to see her for a bone marrow transplant," she said in Spanish.
"I was kind of worried, actually, I was really worried," said her 11-year-old son, Caleb Canobas.
The family was very worried because up until Monday, Alina Ortega, who's a match and a willing donor, had been in Cuba. In early December her U.S. visa application was denied, despite the fact that she had submitted a letter from her sister's oncologist at the University of Miami’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, explaining how she would serve as a donor.
"They rejected her because they say she doesn't have income here, and doesn't have sufficient proof of the purpose for the visit," Damay Ortega explained back in December.
NBC Miami's cameras were there on that fateful Havana day when the decision was reversed. Days after sister station Telemundo 51 inquired and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's office got involved, the U.S. Interests Section in Havana granted Alina Ortega a non-immigrant visa.
"She's going to get better," Alina Ortega said with her armed wrapped around Damay.
The grateful sisters look ahead to a procedure that will give Damay Ortega a fighting chance to see her child grow up.
"I'm not worried anymore," Canobas said.