Gulfport Family Testifies to the Power of Marrow Donations

Little Ana Ortiz stood by as her parents helped screen potential bone marrow donors.

Ana will celebrate her eleventh birthday on Monday, but life is something the Ortize's celebrate everyday.

A year-and-a-half ago, it looked like Ana's life was slipping away.

"We were told at that time because she had cancer so many times that a bone marrow probably would not work on her or a donor would be hard to find because of her ethnic background," said Ana's mother, Lisa.

Lisa looked on helplessly as her little girl struggled with her third bout with cancer, but Lisa never gave up hope.

Her faith was rewarded with what she calls a miracle.

"The National Marrow donor did find a good match for her. It was a 40 year old man from New York, and he was a great match for our daughter, miraculously so. And she received her bone marrow transplant from St. Jude on January 21, 2004," Lisa said.

Ana has been cancer-free since the transplant.

"There are a lot of people who have given today merely on the inspiration that they got from seeing my daughter, and how good she came out of it," said Ana's father, Adam Ortiz.

The Ortizes believe in second chances and the life-saving power of marrow drives like this one.

"This was truly our last hope, and why I want to encourage people to give of themselves. This is one way that you can give back literally of yourself, and save a person's life," Lisa said.

All of the samples collected today will be listed with the National Marrow Donor Registry and screened for potential matches.

A person of any race, ethnicity or gender, ages 18 to 60, who meets donation guidelines can become a volunteer potential marrow or blood stem cell donor.

For more information, call the New Orleans branch of Heart of America.

That toll-free number is 1-800-366-7733.