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Carver Teacher Meets Miracle Bone Marrow Donor
08/01/2017
 teacher and grandson
Photo by Susan Passmore
Carver kindergarten teacher Michelle Hayes shows grandson Austin Sibley the book she was given at church in Minnesota after meeting her bone marrow donor.

 

Carver Teacher Meets Miracle Bone Marrow Donor

 

By: Susan Passmore

Michelle Hayes, kindergarten teacher at Carver Elementary, gives bone marrow donor Peter Favilla a t-shirt she made. Hayes traveled to Minnesota to meet the man she credits with saving her life.

Meeting the man who saved her life was well worth a 1200-mile drive to Minnesota this summer for a Goose Creek CISD kindergarten teacher. Carver Elementary teacher Michelle Hayes was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in March 2015, and after several tough rounds of chemotherapy, she was told she would not recover unless she had a bone marrow transplant. Unfortunately, her five siblings and her two children were not matches, so it was going to take a miracle.

Miles away, Peter Favilla, then 45 years old, received a call from “Be the Match,” letting him know that he was a potential bone marrow donor and asking him to come to the Indiana Blood Center for a blood test. Favilla had signed up to become a donor while in graduate school 20 years earlier and had forgotten all about it, so this caught him completely off guard. Favilla proved to be a 100 percent match, so he talked with his wife, son and daughter about it.

“He said his daughter told him, ‘You don’t have a choice. You’re doing this,” Hayes said.

Favilla checked in at Mayo Clinic in Rochester August 11, 2015, and Hayes was waiting in Houston at MD Anderson Cancer Center to receive his bone marrow the next day. She had survived cervical cancer several years before, so she had faith that she would get through this just fine.

After the transplant, her health improved rapidly, and she was ready to return to teaching after having been off work for a year. Her first year at Carver Elementary last year went well with support from her team and the administrators, but she was on a mission this summer – to meet Peter Favilla.

“Without “Be the Match” and Peter Favilla, I wouldn’t be alive,” Hayes said.

Earlier this month, Hayes and her husband, Steve Hayes, headed to the border of Wisconsin and Minnesota to visit the Favilla family. They finally met July 6.

“It was very emotional. I met the man who saved my life! I said, ‘You’re my angel, because you saved my life!’ They accepted us like family,” Hayes said.

Hayes brought Favilla a t-shirt she had made with “Donor” on it to go with hers, bearing the inscription, “Recipient,” but she knew she could never give him a gift like he’d given her – the gift of life.

The four days passed quickly for the two families, with a boat ride, a trip to Mall of America and many happy dinners together, but at the Sunday service at People’s Congregational Church in Bayport, Hayes realized that she had had more people than she could have ever imagined praying for her on this journey. Pastor Linda Tossey read the book, “The Giving Tree,” by Shel Silverstein to the children in the congregation as a lesson about giving and receiving. Everyone signed it, and it was presented to Hayes, the woman they had all been praying for the past two years. After church, eight people signed up as donors with “Be the Match” in her honor.

Throughout her two-year ordeal, Hayes managed to keep her sense of humor. After all, she is a kindergarten teacher.

“My husband gave me a necklace with my two birthstones on it. My two birthdays are January 18, 1968, and August 12, 2015, so I will be two on this birthday,” she joked.

Hayes has seen some other miracles in her life. A high school dropout, she decided when her son Jeremiah Sibley was a freshman at Ross S. Sterling High School to obtain her GED and attend Lee College and University of Houston Clear Lake to pursue teaching. It wasn’t an easy road, but this year she starts her 10th year of teaching. She also managed to attend her daughter Amber’s wedding in October 2015, although some of the wedding planning took place at the hospital, and her son’s wedding in March 2016.

Another miracle Hayes has experienced is the family reuniting with her grandson Austin, whom she had not seen since he was 18-months-old. He is a lively 6-year-old, and “Grammie” is grateful she can now keep up with him.

Michelle Hayes believes in miracles. She knows she has so much to be thankful for, and her outlook on life has changed.

“I’m living life more – I’m taking time to smell the roses. This has restored my faith in people,” she said.

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