ELIZABETH, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Federal officials have paved the way for what will hopefully be a live-saving bone marrow transplant for a 5-year-old girl from New Jersey.
Already weak from rounds of chemotherapy, young Yarellis Bonilla learned Friday that her big sister from El Salvador will soon arrive in the United States to try and save her life.
Senator Bob Menendez, who has helped champion Bonilla’s cause, told 1010 WINS Friday night that Bonilla’s sister, Giselle, has been granted a Humanitarian Parole by immigration services, allowing her to travel from El Salvador to Newark’s Beth Israel Children’s Hospital for the transplant. Still, Menendez expressed disbelief that the entire process took as long as it did.
“It was pretty shocking to me that common sense could not prevail over bureaucracy to help save a young child’s life and if we think about this holiday season, you know, this is really what it is all about,” Menendez said.
Menendez said the travel documents should be available at the U.S. embassy on Monday.
“So it is our hope that she can get here as early as next week,” he said.
The State Department twice denied Giselle’s application for a visa. The family’s lawyer, Mariam Habib, offered an explanation for what the government based their denials on.
“Giselle has so many sisters in the United States, that she would come here and remain here indefinitely past the period of time for her visa,” Habib told CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey.
Still, the family’s lawyer said she is glad that the Department of Homeland Security “did the right thing.”
However, the months of bureaucracy have come at cost to Yarellis Bonilla — chemotherapy treatments she could have avoided.
“That puts her a little higher risk because she got more intensive treatment. Her body took more of a beating while we were waiting for the transplant,” said Dr. Peri Kamalakar of Newark Beth Israel.
However, doctors said the odds are good little Yarelis will survive, but there are no guarantees. Her family said at least now she has a fighting chance to live.
“There’s too many people, you know, every day dying and we have a chance now to save her life,” said Gertrudis Ramirez, Yarellis’ grandfather.
Bonilla’s sister will be able to stay three months. The bone marrow transplant will happen sometime after the new year.
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