When a 6-year-old girl got very sick, her 2-year-old sister made a huge sacrifice to save her.

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Vanessa Gissel is an 6-year-old with sickle cell anemia.

The thing about this disease is that when it requires treatment via bone marrow transplant, you need as close to a perfect match as possible or the recipient's body could reject it.

The perfect match for Vanessa? It turned out to be her 2-year-old sister, Sarah.


"That's the beauty of it," said her mom, Dominique. "One is going to complete the other."

Their father, Gregory, has been supportive, too.

Vanessa had always wanted to dye her hair blue, so he took her to the beauty salon so they could do that together. He also recognizes Sarah's huge sacrifice.

Just like the blue hair Gregory donned for his daughter, he also shaved his head so that Vanessa knew her whole family was supporting her.


The transplant wasn't easy.

Sarah being poked with needles.

Sarah cried during the procedure, but her sister faced a more challenging time ahead. After the operation, Vanessa spent 71 grueling days at the Aflac Cancer & Blood Disorders Center of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, as well as the Atlanta Ronald McDonald House.

The results came back, first three months later then six months later.

Vanessa's tests came back with wonderful results, and she's been in remission ever since.

Children who develop cancer and other blood disorders such as sickle cell anemia can face difficult obstacles on the road to recovery. Even with proper treatment, it's hard for families to plan for the future until the outcome seems certain.

Vanessa's mother summed up how the future of her daughter and family has changed:

“She'll be able to get married, have kids, pick a profession. I feel like we can do anything now." — Dominique Gissel


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