Memphis miracle creates lifelong bond between donor, St. Jude patient

The Remy family meets Christian and Nina in Paris (Source: submission)
The Remy family meets Christian and Nina in Paris (Source: submission)
Barrett meets Christian (Source: Submission)
Barrett meets Christian (Source: Submission)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A surprise meeting under the Eiffel Tower led to the wedding of a lifetime, all because of a miracle that took place in Memphis.

Supporters of the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway are a part of this story, even if they don't know it.

Sometimes in life, we make the unlikeliest of friends.

Louisiana-native Barrett Remy can't wait for the trip of a lifetime she and her family are about to take.

They've only met in person once before, but for Christian Erdwich and his fiancée Nina, inviting the Remy family to their upcoming nuptials in Germany was a no-brainer.

Today, Barrett is a healthy 20-year-old, but four years ago, her future looked uncertain after a devastating diagnosis.

"I thought this thing could never happen to me, but it did and it changed my life so much," Barrett said.

At 16, the vibrant teenager, who loved to dance, was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, or MDS, a type of leukemia.

The family immediately headed to Memphis to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

"It's like you went from watching a movie where you hear about kids and you see the St. Jude commercials on TV and you give your typical $25 a month and all of a sudden, you're the main character in the movie," said Troy Remy.

Days in treatment turned into weeks and then months.

Finally, Barrett and her family got the news they had been praying for – a life-saving bone marrow donation.

"They found out that a German male, 26 at the time, was a match for me," Barrett said.

Motivated by his fiancée years before, Christian, a police officer, gave a swab of his DNA on a whim.

"They said the chance to be a match is one to one million," Christian said.

Barrett is his one in a million.

"They said everything looks fine, so if you want, you can do this, so I said why not? Let's do this," Christian said. "They took one and a half liters of blood out of my body and they said your stem cells are going to America to a 16-year-old girl and I said 'oh wow, really, that's so cool,' and I was crying, yes, I was crying a little bit."

"For him to selflessly go through the process of getting vetted for the bone marrow, and then actually getting the call and doing it, and then saving a little girl's life across the world, he's a special person, he really is," Troy said.

Meanwhile, in Memphis at St. Jude, Barrett endured a grueling pre-surgery regimen prepping her body for the lifesaving procedure.

Afterward, she was isolated to allow her immune system to recover from the surgery.

"We were probably there a good three months, in that closed unit," said Michelle Remy.

Barrett said she was curious about who donated his cells to save her life, but strict laws surround donors and patients.

"You can't give out your name for two years, but you can communicate with them through letters," Barrett said.

Snail mail it was, writing just enough to say hello, without revealing anything personal.

"He would say donor and I would say, your donee," Barrett said.

Then at 18, Barrett received a trip to Paris from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and her parents came up with the perfect surprise.

Under the Eiffel Tower, Barrett met the man who brought her new life.

"I broke down and cried and then I hugged him," Barrett said. "I didn't know how to thank him, like how do you thank someone who saved your life, you know?"

"It was really amazing, really," Christian said.

Two years later, the Remy family is about to head overseas because now it's Barrett's turn to support Christian.

"If it wasn't for his stem cells, she wouldn't be alive," Michelle said.

Here's how supporters of the Dream Home campaign played a part in this:

The Remy family never received a bill for treatment, housing, or any expenses related to her time at St. Jude, thanks to generous donors like you.

Time is running out to reserve a ticket in this year's St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway. By reserving a $100 ticket, you can have a direct impact on a child.

Please call 1-800-224-6681 or click this link.

We have only a limited number of tickets left.

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