One mom got the surprise of a lifetime live on “Good Morning America” this morning, as she was not only shocked by Emeril Lagasse showing up on her doorstep to deliver a very special breakfast in bed, but also meeting her 3-year-old’s bone marrow donor, the woman that saved her leukemia-stricken daughter’s life.
“I can’t believe it,” Nicole Moore, 31, Emeril’s Breakfast in Bed winner said, wiping tears from her eyes. “This is amazing.”
Moore’s mother-in-law, Sally Moore, submitted her for Emeril’s Breakfast in Bed contest, to celebrate Moore on Mother’s Day for caring for her daughter and holding her entire family together through the hardest time of their lives. But she never imaged “Good Morning America” and chef Emeril Lagasse would actually select Moore, a mom from Sanford, Fla., as the winner.
“A 120-word submission and a picture, and ABC heard our story,” Sally Moore told Emeril this morning. “We have made our mess our message, and I’m so proud of my daughter-in-law. She is amazing and worked so hard to get her family through this. I couldn’t be happier. Thank you so much.”
Emeril took the deserving mother, Nicole Moore, by the hand to lead her outside, where she was greeted by special friends, family, fellow church members, nurses from her daughter’s hospital, and even Mickey and Minnie, waiting in her front yard.
“But there’s somebody very special in the crowd,” Emeril explained. “You are about to meet for the first time the young mom that saved your daughter’s life. Kristen, the bone marrow donor.”
The two women immediately embraced, as Moore mustered the words, “Thank you so much,” with tears streaming from her eyes.
“There are no words to describe how grateful I am for her,” Moore said. “What she did for a complete stranger is just amazing. She’s my hero and I just love her so much.”
Her 3-year-old daughter, Lauren, adorned in her Mickey Mouse ears, wrapped her arms tightly around Kristen Eisinger’s neck, the woman who saved her life, knowing exactly who the stranger was and how important she is to her family.
“Everyone just needs to go sign up [to be a donor]. It’s so important,” Eisinger said.
And as if the moment couldn’t have gotten any sweeter, Emeril added the icing on the cake by serving Nicole Moore, her daughter Lauren, and her daughter’s donor, Kristen Eisinger, a breakfast of blueberry pancakes, fresh fruit and more in a bed on her front lawn.
Diagnosis Shatters Family’s Perfect World
After Nicole Moore married her high school sweetheart, Lee Moore, in April 2007, the couple welcomed daughter Lauren, an energetic bundle of joy, into their lives, and in the summer of 2011 had another baby on the way.
“We always had the same goals,” husband Lee Moore said, “We always knew we wanted a family.”
It should have been the happiest time in Nicole Moore’s life.
Nicole Moore was overjoyed to add an addition to their family, but as summer came to an end, her seemingly perfect world quickly and painfully began to fall apart. After weeks of being sick, Lauren, almost 2, wound up in the emergency room.
“We were able to do some blood work fairly quickly and found out that she had leukemia,” said Dr. Eslin of the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando, Fla.
Lauren was diagnosed with T-cell leukemia in August 2011.
It was such a shocking diagnosis that Nicole Moore started going into early labor. As her young daughter lay in the oncology ward, Moore was rushed to the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies right across the street. Miraculously, her early labor stopped and she returned to Lauren, who would have to undergo chemotherapy. Nicole Moore quickly became an expert on Lauren’s rare form of leukemia.
“Nicole, all along, had dedicated herself right from the beginning to make Lauren well,” her mother, Cathy Wise, said.
A few weeks later, Nicole Moore gave birth to a healthy son, Tommy.
Now, she was juggling her sick daughter and caring for a newborn.
“That supernatural mother instinct kicked in and she completely took over. She was always just so determined that this is going to work and I’m going to give everything I got,” husband Lee Moore said. “It focused everybody.”
Despite rounds of chemo, it became clear that would not be enough for Lauren. While 99 percent of children with leukemia go into remission at the end of their first month of chemotherapy, Dr. Eslin said, Lauren was not responding to the treatment. Her only hope was a bone marrow transplant.
“I think that was probably the scariest time,’” sister-in-law Sarah Moore recalled. “It was terrifying because they basically told us, ‘It’s this or nothing. If this doesn’t work, we don’t have the answer.’”
A bone marrow transplant on a now-3-year-old is no easy task, and no one in the family was more than a 50 percent match.
With steely determination, Nicole Moore researched the best centers to take care of her baby girl, staying up late into the morning hours researching hospitals. Finally, the family decided on Seattle Children’s Hospital – thousands of miles away from home.
“The toughest part was that we had such an amazing support system here and we couldn’t pick a farther place away to go than Seattle from Orlando, basically,” Lee Moore said.
Finally, the family received some good news: Doctors had found a “perfect match” for Lauren from a 24-year-old anonymous donor in the National Bone Marrow Registry.
In April 2012, just eight months after her diagnosis, Nicole Moore and her family held their breath as Lauren got her transplant.
“One day, I got a text and it said, ‘Lauren has counts,’ which meant the bone marrow’s working. And that was a big deal – a big deal,” father-in-law Tom Moore recalled.
Eventually, they were able to leave the hospital, but Nicole Moore’s job wasn’t over.
“She had to keep her away from other children,” mother-in-law Sally Moore said. “She had to take her to the doctor weekly, sometimes more than weekly, she had blood drawn on a regular basis and she does this with the baby.”
A year later, Lauren is thriving.
“Last year at this time, I think Nicole’s only thought was, ‘I just want her to have a third birthday,’ and now she gets to think about college and getting married and all those things that you’re supposed to get to think about,” sister-in-law Sarah Moore said.
Nicole Moore’s ability to hold her entire family together through the roughest patch of their lives earned her family’s deepest respect, thanks and admiration.
RECIPES: Emeril’s 11 Best Breakfast Recipes