A 19-year-old leukemia patient is looking forward to her wedding thanks to a baby sister conceived expressly to donate lifesaving bone marrow.
Fourteen-month-old Marissa Ayala made her first public appearance Thursday since donating the marrow to big sister Anissa. The brown-eyed, brown-haired baby captivated photographers. She scampered about in a blue and white cotton frock, white sandals and ribboned socks.Marissa was released from the hospital Tuesday just hours after the serum containing the marrow cells was extracted from her hip.
"After the operation she was back to her lively little self," the girls' mother Mary said. "At 2:30 p.m. the same day she was running around playing as usual."
Anissa will recover in an isolation ward to protect her from infections. "Mentally, she's doing pretty well. She's scared but that's to be expected," Ayala said.
Her seclusion didn't prevent Anissa from making wedding plans. "Anissa is looking through brides' magazines and dreaming of what she wants to wear," Ayala said.
She said Anissa is planning to marry Bryan Espinoza, 24, on June 4, 1992, the first anniversary of the operation.
"She just wants to live a full and healthy life and she appreciates life a lot more now," Ayala said.
The Ayalas risked high odds and criticism in their decision to have a third child in hopes of providing matching bone marrow for Anissa when they could not find a compatible donor. Their action drew attention from critics who classified their strategy as "baby farming."
Ayala said the critics should "walk in my shoes and let them feel what I was feeling when we were told that our daughter only had a few years left to live."
Conceiving a baby to save the life of a sibling is not unique, said Dr. Arthur Caplan of the Center of Bioethics at the University of Minnesota. He said he knows of at least 40 cases in which children were conceived just to become donors. None of those cases went public, he said.
Dr. Stephen J. Forman, who headed the transplant team, said Anissa's prognosis for recovery was about 70 percent, based on experience with other cancer victims that have had the operation.