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Following bone marrow transplant from little sister, 17-year-old home just in time for Christmas

December 22, 2018
Teen donates bone marrow to big sis battling cancer
Teen donates bone marrow to big sis battling cancer

Seventeen-year-old Sarah Jernigan is home just in time for Christmas, thanks in large part to her little sister.

On August 23, 13-year-old Savannah Jernigan underwent surgery to give her big sister, Sarah, who was diagnosed this year with an aggressive form of leukemia, her bone marrow.

“Well, now she’s a part of me. Like another me,” Savannah Jernigan said.

“If (Savannah) didn’t give me her bone marrow, I wouldn’t be here for this Christmas,” Sarah Jernigan said.

But it was a punishing ordeal for Sarah. Doctors postponed the surgery for a month because the leukemia returned.

“It was a lot tougher on her than we thought it would be,” said Sandy Thornton, the girls’ mom.

“I was really, really sick,” Sarah Jernigan said.

She spent more than a month at UNC Hospital.

“Sarah would sit in the hospital and she would cry, and I would bring Savannah up there and they would sit on the bed for hours,” Thornton said.

After the hospital, Sarah spent three months at the Ronald McDonald House, where sick children can stay close to their doctors.

But one week before Christmas, she got the news she could go home.

“A true Christmas gift,” Thornton said.

Sarah is now cancer free.

“We were close before, but we argued a lot,” Savannah said. “Now, she can’t leave. ’Cause now she’s a part of me.”

Sarah Jernigan still makes weekly trips to Chapel Hill for doctor visits.

Now, she wants a laptop for Christmas so she can start looking at colleges. She wants to be a nurse.

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