ST. LOUIS, Mo (KMOV.com) - It was one year ago that a newborn boy helped save his sister's life with a priceless gift.
Now, a St. Louis area family is celebrating a remarkable milestone with a "Make a Wish" trip to Disneyworld.
When Elsa Wiemerslage was born, her parents already knew what her first gift would be.
"I always knew I would donate her cord blood and any other child's that I would have," said Adrienne Wiemerslage, Elsa's mom.
Fast forward to 2015. It was a month before Thanksgiving and Elsa was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. It was also just one month before her family would welcome a new addition.
"Her sister was a 100 percent match. But she was two at the time and with what she would have to go through, she was little, she wouldn't understand," said Wiemerslage. "But then little man came along and he was a 100 percent match and he wouldn't have to suffer pokes or prods or anything."
Nurses with the St. Louis Cord Blood Bank at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital helped the family secure newborn Eli's cord blood to process for his sister.
"We knew if we didn't do the stem cell, she would be more likely to relapse. After three rounds of chemo, we decided that was the best route for her," said Wiemerslage.
One year later, the whole family is celebrating that gift.
"He doesn't know yet but we call him 'Superman Eli.'" said Wiemerslage.
It's a rare story at the St. Louis Cord Blood Bank because donors almost never know whose life they may save.
"We cannot let patient know who the donor is because we wouldn’t want the patient to go back to the donor and ask for more cells," said Donna Regan, St. Louis Cord Blood Bank director.
Instead, the program is designed to help patients across the world.
"The St. Louis Cord Blood Bank collects from 28 hospitals around the St. Louis metro area," said Regan. "Thirty-five to forty percent of moms who deliver in this area donate. We are so grateful for their belief in the program and what we do has value."
In 2016, the Cord Blood Bank celebrated 20 years. In that time, they've collected 192,000 donations, 35,000 of which have been processed, and 26,000 are available for transplant. Just as in Elsa's case, the umbilical cord blood can be used to cure cancers or other disorders.
Still, the St. Louis Cord Blood Bank says its mission continues.
"There is still a need. You never know who could be a match for someone else so no matter how large the inventory is, someone could be that be special one that could save a person's life," said Kathy Mueckl.
For the Wiemerslage family, it's a gift they never could have imaged years after donating Elsa's cord blood.
"We didn't know we would have to be on the receiving end of that," said Wiemerslage.