EAGLE PASS, Texas – Every day, Rodolfo Aguilar makes the trip from his home in Mexico across the bridge to the United States. But two weeks ago during the winter storm that hit Texas, he made a different trip – one that could possibly save a life.

Aguilar lives in Piedras Negras, Mexico, but works as an ICU nurse at the hospital on the U.S. side of the border in Eagle Pass, Texas.

For nearly the past year, that's meant a steady dose of patients with COVID-19.

"We have 10 ICU beds and they've been full. Sometimes you feel helpless when there's nothing you can do for them," Aguilar said.

That's part of what made his recent trip to San Antonio so gratifying.

"All that was on my mind was that little girl," he said.

Aguilar has been on the bone marrow registry for six years after stopping at a table set up in the hallway of his junior college.

"They just said, 'Hey, you know you can save people,' and I was like, 'Okay, what do I have to do?'" Aguilar said.

He wasn't sure he'd ever be called upon, but in January he finally received word that he was a match for a young child in need of his stem cells. 

“I want to say less than half way through January they sent me an email that they found me a recipient that needs me and it was pretty quick. She has a pretty short turnaround because, of course she needs it as soon as possible," Aguilar said.

For five days, Aguilar took a drug that increased his white blood cell count and was scheduled to drive up to San Antonio for his donation on February 15. That was the same day Texas was hit by the worst winter storm in modern history.

With the clocking ticking, plans changed.

"I couldn't go Monday, and they kept saying, 'We don’t want you to drive in these conditions, it might be dangerous. Are you willing to do this? Are you willing to do that?’” Aguilar said. "Even like the helicopter that they kept saying, and I was like, 'Okay, I’m like down for any of that. Whatever needs to be done.'"

On Tuesday, February 16, with the winter storm still raging across the state, Aguilar strapped himself into a helicopter and embarked on the hour and a half trip to San Antonio.

A Texas Department of Public Safety escort got him to the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center safely, where the procedure took place.

Aguilar, who works on the front lines with COVID-19 patients and has plans to attend medical school, made sure this gift – this trip –was never a question.

“I mean, it doesn’t feel like a big thing. It does motivate you more when you realize she has such a long life in front of her and you can be that difference between all those long years she can live," Aguilar said.

Aguilar says he had a few nerves, but they were outweighed by his excitement to have his first ride in a helicopter. But, even more exciting was being able help a little girl on the other side of the border whose blood disease didn't care if it was snowing or not.

“I’m not a big talker. I don’t show off or anything like that. I didn’t want this for fame. I never thought I’d be in the news or anything like that, but we got it done," said Aguilar.

For more information on how to join the bone marrow registry, visit southtexasblood.org or bethematch.org.