Through tears, Jaclyn Manning Hocutt thanked a Southeast Texas speech pathologist for her life-saving donation.

An awards banquet Thursday night hosted by the Longview organization Because I Care brought Hocutt and her donor, Maggie Pampolina, together for the first time.

Because I Care is a volunteer group that recruits bone marrow donors who help patients with blood cancers such as leukemia.

After a relapse in treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Hocutt said she discovered she needed a bone marrow transplant.

Hocutt received her marrow transplant last January, thanks to a donation by Pampolina, who lives in Lumberton, just north of Beaumont.

“I’m really thankful for everyone that’s here and just sharing awareness to something that’s a miracle. I just want to say thank y’all and God bless,” Hocutt said.

Coordinator Anita Quinn said donors unrelated to the recipient remain anonymous for a year before they’re allowed to contact each other.

When Pampolina emerged from a back room at the East Texas Builders Association Event Center, Hocutt immediately bear hugged her, cried and expressed thanks for her donation, before sitting next to her new friend.

Hocutt continually noted that she’s thankful and grateful for the transplant that gave her a new start and a new immune system.

“I’m happy that Maggie was there for me. It was a very hard thing to deal with, but I had God by my side, and (he) allowed me to live, to get here tonight and be with the love of my life,” she said.

When Pampolina’s husband’s aunt was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, she said she registered as a marrow donor. Though she wasn’t a match for her family member, drives that her family conducted led to three other families matching with donors, she said.

Pampolina was surprised when she “got the call” to donate her bone marrow, she said.

“Throughout the process, over and over they asked me, ‘Are you still in?’ ... It was never anything that was a question for me,” she said. “Thank you for bringing us together. It’s funny, because it’s like we’ve always known each other, so that’s cool. For me, I’m just happy to be able to be part of God’s plan and in Jaclyn’s life. ... I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

Reporter

Brittany Michelle Williams, a University of Arkansas alumna, serves East Texas as an education reporter at the News-Journal. She won Arkansas Press Association and Arkansas AP Media Editors awards for her work in El Dorado, Arkansas.