WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Denise Hale, 11, was diagnosed with Leukemia in February, and her 5-year-old sister, Janaya, is her only chance for survival.
Janaya is the only perfect matching bone-marrow donor in their family, so the sisters traveled to a hospital in Chapel Hill in hopes of saving Denise's life.
It was an early morning at the hospital, but inside the O.R., Janaya was getting ready to go to sleep. The young girl is terrified of needles, but thanks to laughing gas she giggled herself to sleep.
Bone Marrow Transplant Specialist Dr. Jennifer Jaroscak then began extracting bone marrow from her hips, where the tissue is made.
"We go through the bone with a very sharp needle and make a tiny hole," said Jaroscak. "We draw out the bone marrow with a syringe, until we get enough to do the transplant."
The process is simple and only takes about an hour. Janaya woke up after the procedure with nothing more than a few tears from a sore back.
"Its so easy a 5-year-old can do it - and DID do it," said Jaroscak.
Denise was waiting in a hospital room upstairs, now frail after weeks of radiation and chemotherapy. She was barely awake to see her sister, and the transplant procedure that will help her survive.
From an IV bag to her body, somehow Janaya's marrow cells knew where to go - right to Denise's hips where bone marrow is made.
"They will find their way back to the marrow within an hour of being infused," said Jaroscak.
For twenty days the cells will create a new bone marrow factory and brand new blood that's Leukemia free.
"Denise right now may not fully understand, but when she's an adult and you know looks back on what Janaya did today - she's really going to appreciate her in a different way," said Jaroscak.
"I guess she is really like Denise's angel," said their mother Valeria Hale. "Everything happened quick - she got sick in February. She got diagnosed in February, then she got her chemo treatments and now she's getting her transplant."
But the journey isn't over quite yet. For the next 100 days, doctors will monitor Denise for signs of progress and serious complications.
The count down begins, but hopefully because of the transplant Denise can count on many tomorrows.