Jennifer Ford Aparicio, suffering a rare form of leukemia, had her life saved twice by German student she had never met.
Niels Domogalla, a material engineering student, donated bone marrow twice – once in 2014 and again a year later – for an American woman with blood cancer.
They would not meet until this summer, in Germany. Aparicio and her husband, Baltimore sports radio personality Nestor, flew across the Atlantic to personally thank the 23-year-old who had done so much for a stranger.
But they didn’t tell him that he was in for a huge surprise – a bucket list of sorts for the German student who is a big fan of America, and basketball.
Earlier this month, the couple paid his way to Baltimore, and then whisked him away on a whirlwind sports tour of the U.S.
“There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him. Anything he asked,” Jenn Aparicio told InsideEdition.com Tuesday. “How do you thank someone who saved your life?”
They didn’t just do it out of gratitude. They have come to really like the young man.
“He’s a great guy,” Jenn said.
“He wasn’t even overwhelmed” by the surprise trip and getting to meet some pro basketball players,” her husband said. “He’s very German,” he explained, laughing.
In 10 days, they criss-crossed the country, hitting L.A., Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York. They saw the Los Angeles Lakers and the Clippers play. They hit a Cleveland Cavaliers match in D.C. against the Washington Wizards.
In the Big Apple, they took in a Knicks game against the Dallas Mavericks.
Nestor, through his connections in the sports industry, was able to get special access at some NFL games, allowing Niels to meet some Baltimore Ravens team members, and to greet the Oakland Raiders at their training facility, where Nestor collected swab samples from 44 members of the organization for DKMS, the German donor registry that paired the Aparicios with Niels.
“He had a great time,” Nestor said. “It was all a big blur for him.”
Under German law, a bone marrow donor must wait two years before his or her name can be released to the recipient. But Niels had written a letter in 2014, with his initial donation, explaining why was willing to help someone he didn’t know.
“I did this for you because I believe it is our assignment to help people when they need help the most,” he said.
“I also have to thank you!” he wrote. “It may sound strange but I’m deeply grateful that I had such a chance to do something like that.
“Every time I’m upset, I think back on what I did and that you could be the happiest person on Earth. And so I become very happy too.”