Leukemia survivor serving as beacon of hope in same Phoenix hospital that saved his life
Dec 19, 2023, 4:35 AM | Updated: Dec 21, 2023, 11:04 am
(Colton Krolak/KTAR News Photo)
PHOENIX — A cancer survivor is back at the Phoenix hospital where he was diagnosed, but this time he isn’t there to receive treatment — he’s there to provide it.
Jaziel Olmeda, 24, knows what it’s like to be a child with cancer, the kind of determination it takes to become a three-time leukemia survivor and how it feels to help save kids just like him.
Olmeda was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2008 when he was 7 years old. After the cancer returned for the third time, he was ready to stop fighting — until a nurse gave him hope.
“She shared that she was a patient at that same hospital and became a nurse at that same hospital. I was like, ‘That’s pretty cool. I want to do the same thing,'” Olmeda told KTAR News 92.3 FM.
He started asking questions about what the nurses were doing and why they were doing it.
“Knowing one day that I would be wearing the scrubs, I would be on the other side, I would be working with the doctors that treated me is what gave me the motivation to keep fighting,” Olmeda said.
Reaching that goal wouldn’t be easy. Olmeda received two bone marrow transplants and 134 blood donations throughout the course of his treatment.
Now, the Leukemia survivor is giving back to the community
Olmeda spoke at a Vitalant press conference on Monday to highlight the importance of blood donations.
To his surprise, four other guests showed up to the event. They were donors whose charity helped fund Olmeda’s fight against cancer.
David Miller, whose own brother died from Leukemia, was one of the donors who surprised Olmeda.
“I donate because I know it’s going for a good cause,” Miller said. “I know people are being helped by it, but to actually see the results of it, and to see it going to such an individual that’s giving back so much, that warms my heart tremendously. It makes it so much more rewarding.”
Olmeda has been cancer free for 10 years. After graduating from nursing school in May, his decades-long dream of working for Phoenix Children’s came true when he became a pediatric oncology nurse. His new boss was one of the nurses who took care of him when he was a patient.
“I owe them everything. I owe them my life, practically. Because of them I am here,” Olmeda said. “I want to inspire children the way my nurse inspired me to keep fighting.”
Christmas Eve marks the start of the 10 most difficult times for blood donations, according to Vitalant. The company said more than 18,000 blood donors will be needed during the month of December.
To learn how to donate, go to Vitalant.org.