As an infant, Gabriel Smith nearly lost his life to a rare disease. Diagnosed at just 14-months-old with aplastic anemia, Gabriel went into bone marrow failure and was in desperate need of a transplant.
Halfway around the world in Schuby, Germany, then 19-year-old carpenter Dennis Gutt came across donor registry Be the Match, and decided to donate. Though he knew his gift would help someone, somewhere, Gutt remained unaware of the recipient. That is until the now 25-year-old received a call from the Make a Wish Foundation.
Turns out Gabriel, the young boy whose life was saved by Dennis so many years before wanted to meet his donor. Given the choice between visiting Disney World or meeting the man who helped give him life, Gabriel chose Dennis.
“At first, he said, ‘Take my donor to meet Mickey,’” Gabriel’s mom, Lauren, told CNN. “But we couldn’t do that, so he was asked to choose one: Meet your donor or go to Disney. He chose to meet his donor, Dennis, without any hesitation.”
Dennis had already agreed to share his identity with the recipient but never expected this. “I was speechless,” Dennis said. “I can’t believe that this happened and that he survived the bone marrow transplant.”
So last August, Dennis made the long journey from Germany to the states for the very first time. Although they’d never met before, the two immediately bonded. “He is part of our family now,” Lauren said.
“He bonded instantly with Gabriel and our other two kids, Ebby and Xavier. We are hoping this experience will inspire others to donate blood and join the Be The Match registry.”
More than one wish was granted, as Lauren has since shared on Facebook that their story had indeed inspired thousands of new donors to sign up with Be The Match.
With just one simple decision, Dennis has already improved the lives of hundreds of patients and families around the world. A heartwarming reminder that one person’s actions really can change the world for the better.