6-year-old boy undergoes 2 bone marrow transplants amid COVID pandemic, reunites with family

October 6, 2020

    A 6-year-old boy diagnosed with myeloid leukemia (AML) and advanced myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) has been fighting for his life in the hospital since October.

    Zeke Puig has undergone two bone marrow transplants while hospitalized and due to the pandemic, he hasn't been able to see the rest of his family.

    Still, his mother, Danielle Puig, told "Good Morning America" that she was beyond grateful that two strangers chose to donate their bone marrow amidst a global pandemic.

    "I have really been able to mostly keep my emotions at bay for this because I try to just live in the day, but when I stop and think [about the donors] or someone asks me, that's when the emotions come," she said.

    "Both of those donors had to take time from their lives, give up whatever they were doing and in the middle of a pandemic walk into a hospital,”she added.

    She expressed her gratitude, stating: "I want them to just know how much they both really saved Zeke's life. They just got a call and said yes, probably not even knowing what exactly that meant."

    Back in July, Zeke underwent intense chemotherapy that prepared him for the taxing bone marrow transplant, the outlet noted.

    Things didn’t go as planned because days after the transplant, his body began to reject the cells and another bone marrow transplant was deemed necessary.

    Due to COVID, the pool of donors was much smaller, but thankfully, Zeke found his perfect match through the Be the Match’s bone marrow registry.

    "Zeke needed a transplant as fast as possible because the risk of infection was so high," his mother said. "The second donor was a 10/10 match and declined the first time to donate and they went back to him or her and told them about Zeke and they agreed."

    "We had two donors in 30 days willing to give up time in their lives and whatever else for Zeke's life," she added. "People are afraid to go to the hospital and these two donors both had to go to the hospital and be around doctors and nurses to help a stranger."

    "You can't help but see these people and be thankful and see the good in humanity through this pandemic," Puig said.

    Zeke's whole family moved from their small town of Virginia to the Philadelphia area where Zeke was getting treatment at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) in hopes of supporting him.

    Since hospital-adjacent housing was shut down due the novel virus, the family has stayed in several Airbnb's that have they've been able to afford through funds donated by the church where Zeke's father, John, is a pastor.

    "We had told the kids, 'Zeke will be in the hospital but you'll be able to visit and there's a playroom there you can play in,'" she said. "The day Zeke was admitted to the hospital was the day hospitals started shutting down."

    "Elijah [Zeke's 10-year-old brother] was able to make the walk with us to Zeke's unit in the hospital and then they had to hug and say goodbye," Puig recalled. "That was the hardest day because we knew we were walking into complete separation for Zeke and we didn't know for how long."

    But after a grueling 75 days, Zeke took several COVID-19 tests that came back negative and was on his way to surprise his siblings at the Airbnb.

    The heartwarming reunion was captured on video.

    One of Zeke’s primary doctors, Dr. Timothy Olson, said that his family have been “incredible advocates for him." He added that Zeke, who is turning 7 in October, is a “real fountain of strength.”

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