5-year-old Ottawa girl meets bone marrow donor who saved her life

In an emotional meeting at Ottawa airport Wednesday, 5-year-old Isabelle Boulerice met the German woman who saved her life.

Twenty-three-year-old Julia Pfaff was 18 when her bone marrow was matched to 6-month-old Isabelle, who was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder and struggling to survive.

Five years later, they met for the first time when Pfaff landed in Ottawa Wednesday, greeted by a beaming Isabelle who called her name and ran to embrace her.

“Thank you,” said Isabelle’s mother Melanie Boulerice. “There’s no other word. We’re just so grateful.”

“No problem. It was just a small thing for me,” said Pfaff.

At 3 months old, Isabelle was diagnosed with malignant infantile osteopetrosis. Her bones became so dense that cell production stopped in the bone marrow cavity, Boulerice explained to CTV Ottawa. Isabelle had a transplant at 4 months old, but when it didn’t take, doctors were worried she wouldn’t survive without another match.

“It was like the whole world collapsing,” recalled Boulerice. “We were just praying and hoping that someone would be able to help her out.”

That’s when they found Pfaff, just before Christmas five years ago.

“We’re so blessed that she was there and that she was able to give this to her,” said Isbaelle’s mother. “To be able to see her and meet her, give her a hug and say thank you in person is just -- there are no words.”

Pfaff also found it difficult to describe what it meant to save the young girl’s life.

“It was just a beautiful feeling,” she said.

With a report from CTV Ottawa’s Catherine Lathem