Identical twins Zoey and Zayne Espayos were in trouble before they were even born.
In the womb, the girls suffered heart failure and received transfusions through a complicated and delicate surgery that pumped blood through their umbilical cords.
After birth, they were diagnosed with a rare genetic blood disorder. What they needed, their doctors in Canada said, was a bone marrow transplant. The search was on for a donor.
Judiel Annis, a 32-year-old woman living in Orange County, California, agreed to sign up after the group did a presentation at loanDepot, where she works.
She gave a cheek swab and thought nothing of it until she was contacted last year and told she was a match.
“Initially, they told me it was a baby girl, they didn’t say she had a twin,” Annis said Thursday. In November, she had surgery to remove marrow from her hip bones, taking enough for both girls.
The transplants were a resounding success. Both girls are now free of the disorder, and at age 3, they met Annis for the first time this week in a ceremony at her workplace.
On Thursday, they went to Disneyland.
“I was always curious about who they were and what kind of condition they had,” she said by phone from the Magic Kingdom. “Just knowing that these girls are able to lead a long, fulfilling life, that just made me happy to be a part of it,” she said.
The twins are too young to know the significance of Annis’ act, but she plans to be part of their lives, going forward, and to stay in touch despite the distance between California and Canada.
“They’re kind of like my genetic twins,” she said.
Meeting the twins’ mother, Reina, also meant a great deal to Annis.
“Just talking to her, it’s like I’ve known her forever. It’s like my sister or my aunt. There’s none of that awkwardness.
“It’s like we’re family,” she said.