(ROCKWALL, TX — August 1, 2019) When he was only 3 months old, Riley Moss received a bone marrow transplant that saved his life. Today, Riley got the chance to meet the miracle donor, who flew all the way from his native Germany to see the boy he saved.
Mere months after he was born on Jan. 2, 2013, Riley was diagnosed with a rare but potentially fatal disease known as HLH. The condition causes the immune system to damage the patient’s tissues and organs, including bone marrow which makes new blood cells.
The search for a bone marrow match for Riley began through the Be the Match donor registry. Riley went through many months of steroids, chemotherapy and more, with his parents Daylon and Stephanie never leaving his side.
“Riley had tubes almost everywhere, but he rarely cried,” said Mana Bailey, Riley’s cousin. “Either Stephanie, Daylon, or Iris, his grandmother, were with Riley, 24/7. He never felt alone or abandoned. His doctors were amazed at their devotion and dedication.”
After eight long months, the doctors found a bone marrow match for Riley. The match came from 27-year-old Mario Scharfe of Werningerode, Germany. Mario had registered to become a donor on Be the Match after a fire brigade friend in his neighboring town had fallen ill with cancer. On July 31, 2013, Mario had surgery to remove his bone marrow. A day later, Riley underwent the transplant surgery with Mario’s donated bone marrow, ultimately saving his life.
A couple of years later, Mario learned who had received his bone marrow and sought the Moss family out on Facebook. They became great friends, and Mario followed young Riley’s life through pictures and video posted on Facebook from the family.
Through Facebook messages to Riley’s parents and family, Mario expressed his greatest desire was to one day meet Riley. Linda Lovvorn – Riley’s great aunt – and Mana arranged to fly Mario out to Mana’s home in Rockwall and surprise Riley this morning — the sixth anniversary of the transplant.
“It was a no-brainer to fly him here and let him meet the little boy whose life he saved,” Mana said. “And also, to let us meet the young man who gave us the most priceless gift ever given.”
For the surprise, Linda and Mana invited Riley and his parents over following his annual checkup at the doctor’s. They had no idea that when they walked through the door, Mario would be there to greet them. While Riley shied away from Mario at first, he eventually warmed up to him. Mario had brought many gifts for Riley, including a soccer ball and a bedspread decked out with the colors and logo of Mario’s favorite soccer team, Magdeburg. Mario also gave Riley a custom made pen from the factory in which he works.
The flight to the states marked Mario’s first time on an airplane. The journey lasted well over 10 hours, including a four-hour layover in Chicago. Now that he’s here, Mario looks forward to enjoying time with Riley and his family before he heads back to Germany on Aug. 10.
“It was truly unbelievable, getting to meet Riley and his parents for the first time,” Mario said. “I’m very thankful to Mana and Linda for making this possible.”
Story and photos by Austin Wells, Blue Ribbon News.
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