OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) -- Two girls bound together by fate, friendship and a blood disorder at an orphanage in Southern China but separated when they were adopted by two U.S. families had a joyful reunion in the Bay Area.
Both girls continue to face the challenge of a serious medical disorder that threatens their lives.
At Children's Hospital Oakland on Monday, there was a lot of laughter and smiles during the long-awaited reunion. The two girls came from the same orphanage from the province of Guangxi.
They were separated three and a half years ago when they were adopted, but they tell KTVU their memories of each other have not faded with time.
"We eat lunch at school. We sit by each other when we eat lunch," said 11-year-old Mai Frandsen who now lives in Madera near Fresno.
"We've been together for as long as I can remember. We seem to find each other in the orphanage," said 10-year-old Mae Rainey who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her Chinese name is "Mong Mong" which means dream.
This reunion is a dream come true for the two girls, providing a piece of their past that was missing.
"She always asked about her. She came home asking for us to help her find her friend in China," said Robin Rainey, Mong Mong's mother.
"It was her missing piece. When our children are adopted from China, they come with nothing. They leave everything. They already lost their parents. Now they've lost their friends in the orphanage," said Heather Frandsen, mother of Mai.
A photo showing the two girls side by side in China that was given to Mong Mong's parents by the orphanage was what helped the two families find each other.
Mong Mong suffers from Thalassemia, a disorder in which the body fails to produce blood.
Her parents were looking for a bone marrow donor using the internet and connected with Mae Frandsen's mother who was part of a Facebook support group because Mae and her little sister Melissa also suffer from the same disorder.
All three girls are patients at Children's Hospital Oakland, known nationwide for its Thalassemia program.
The Frandsen sisters receive blood transfusions here once every 3 weeks. Mong Mong is now being evaluated for her condition.
Their doctor says a bone marrow transplant is the cure, but a good match is rare when it's not from a relative.
"You're more likely to find a match within your own ethnic group because you have genetic similarities," said Dr. Ash Lal, the director of the Thalassemia Program at Children's Hospital in Oakland.
But with one piece of the past found, a renewed optimism for the two families that their daughters will be live long and healthy lives
"We did one huge accomplishment and now we have one more to do," said Mong Mong's father Brian Rainey.
"It's a lifelong friendship that will be forever," said Frandsen.
On Monday evening, the girls were reluctant to part ways as the Frandsens left to drive home to Madera.
"I want to face time. I can text her mom and check on her," said Mong Mong Rainey.
The families plan to see each other again at the end of next month in Florida at Disney World.
They hope to raise awareness about this blood disorder to get more people to sign up for the registry of donors.