New Rochelle teen meets Minnesota woman who saved her life through bone marrow donation

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NEW YORK — There was an emotional reunion on Thursday night between a teenager and the stranger who saved her life.

CBS2’s Ali Bauman was there as they met for the first time.

Gwen Cinquemani loves cheerleading in her hometown of New Rochelle.

You’d never know now that three years ago at just 14 she was diagnosed with MDS, a rare syndrome than can lead to leukemia.

“I was very healthy. I was active, always doing something, so the diagnosis was kind a halt to everything I was doing,” Cinquemani said.

She needed a bone marrow transplant and even though she is a triplet, her brothers were not a match.

Cinquemani was certainly not alone. Seventy percent of patients who need a transplant do not have a fully matched donor in their family.

“It just was so unknown. I didn’t really know what was gonna happen or what was going on or what would happen in the future and I think that’s what scared me the most,” she said.

But right around that same time, 1,000 miles away in Minneapolis, a high school teacher named Haven Davis decided to join the “Be the Match” donor registry.

“I first heard about Be the Match on a Radio Lab episode, a podcast. It seemed like a simple and easy thing to do,” Davis said.

And she was a match for Cinquemani.

“Most people experience few side effects. It just seemed like a no-brainer to me,” Davis said. “It was really not a hard decision.”

Fast forward three years to Thursday in lower Manhattan, when Cinquemani finally met the woman who saved her life.

Their reunion was a long time coming for both.

“As soon as I found out I needed a transplant from an unrelated donor I was like, who’s it gonna be? Like, I need to meet them just to say thank you,” Cinquemani said.

“Human connection is really powerful, so why wouldn’t I want to get to know more about them and how this impacted their lives?” Davis added.

Davis and Cinquemani hope their story encourages others to consider donation. 

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