SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. - Anissa Ayala and her little sister, Marissa Eve, walk down the aisle this evening as bride and flower girl, one year after a bone-marrow transplant to which both owe their lives.
Marissa, now 2 1/2, was conceived to donate marrow to her big sister, who suffered from a deadly form of leukemia.
"Four years ago, things looked so gloomy, and now Anissa's doing great," her father, Abe Ayala, said on the eve of the wedding. "We're being so rewarded. It's amazing."
Anissa, 20, and Bryan Espinosa, 25, are to marry before 350 guests at a Victorian mansion in this city 50 miles east of Los Angeles.
Although Anissa remains a bit weak, she has been putting in long hours with her mother and future mother-in-law on the wedding, Ayala said. She resumed working, at a bank, about three months ago.
"She's even having a hard time sleeping at night, she's so excited," he said.
Dr. Rudolf Brutoco, Anissa's doctor, said she showed no trace of leukemia and is "recovering at an excellent rate."
He described Marissa, whose part in the 1991 operation was virtually risk-free, as a precocious and healthy toddler. Ayala described her as "a little angel."
"We couldn't ask for any child more beautiful," Ayala said. "She's a miracle."
Ayala, 48, and his wife, Mary, 45, decided to have a child to provide a bone-marrow match for Anissa after extensive efforts to find a donor for her failed.