Hayden Hatfield Ryals was in college when she signed up to be a bone marrow donor in 2015. At the time, she didn't think she would be a match for anybody; however, fate had a plan in store when the call for help came a year later.
A baby girl by the name of Skye Savren-McCormick was diagnosed with leukemia, and a coordinator from the marrow registry "Be the Match" told Ryals she was a match.
After struggling to find the meaning of life, the young student finally found her purpose: to save Skye's life.
The pair finally met for the first time and were no longer known as donor and survivor. On this special occasion, they were the bride and her flower girl.
"When Hayden Hatfield Ryals got a call that a baby girl with cancer was a match for her bone marrow, Ryals knew she had to save her. Now, years later, the little girl thanked her donor in a special way by serving as her flower girl." https://t.co/OdCD6DtBKF pic.twitter.com/jhnJfAyoAc— KTVN Channel 2 News (@KTVN) July 3, 2018
Prior to becoming a donor, Ryals told the Dothan Eagle how she began questioning her life's mission.
I was having trouble finding myself and feeling like I had a purpose. So the more that I talked to this coordinator with Be the Match, I started feeling like, what if this is my purpose?
Skye was just diagnosed with juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia prior to her first birthday in March 2016. She received her first bone marrow transplant that year, but due to complications on her road to recovery, the toddler still required a second transplant from another donor in 2017, and that bone marrow came from Ryals.
Ryals said the process of being a donor was very simple, and for her, the gesture paid off significantly.
It's a cheek swab -- swab your cheek, put it in an envelope and they send it off ... I thought there's like a one in a gazillion chance that I would ever be a match.
While Skye was fighting the cancer, Ryals questioned who the little soldier was and how she was doing, but Be the Match requires that all donors refrain from contacting patients for one year.
When the time came, she contacted Skye's mother and corresponded through text messages and Facebook.
On Skye's third birthday, Ryals sent the toddler a special gift, including an invitation to her wedding, asking her to be the flower girl.
With the doctor's consent, the Savren-McCormick family flew out to Alabama for the wedding, where both families met for the very first time at the wedding rehearsal.
Ryals recalled the emotional moment with ABC news:
I walked up and I just dropped to my knees and all I could do was smile.
Twitter was emotional over the touching story of two people linked together in a special way.
I'm glad my coworkers left for the day so no one could see me almost turn into a blubbering mess.— George Mitchell (@RealThndrMonkey) July 3, 2018
Very touching. It's always great to hear stories like this one, especially in the times we live in and hearing so many awful happenings. There is good in this world and beautiful people.— Moriah (@MoriahLynn27) July 3, 2018
You were a beautiful bride and a beautiful human being to do what you did hats off to you you are a special human being— True Blue Yankee Fan (@gwheiler) July 3, 2018
“CANCER FREE”” so happy to know this thank you 4 sharing best ,,’ 💛🍃🌹Health&happiness— Desiree (@dscald4u) July 3, 2018
Skye's mother told ABC that her daughter wouldn't have survived if it wasn't for Ryals.
She was that sick. I feel like Hayden is such a huge success in why Skye was able to beat leukemia.
Both families plan to stay in touch.
"They are going to be part of our lives forever," said Skye's mother. "She saved our daughter's life.