Woman discovers stranger stem cell donor worked next door to her
Nathan Day, 29, saved a stranger with a life-saving transplant and happened to be working just 100ft away from the young woman who received it.
He was a stem cell donor for Julia Reinstein, 23, and says she is now like a ‘sister’ to him.
Julia’s cancer diagnosis left her in a desperate need of a transplant in June 2019.
She was diagnosed, as a student, with acute myeloid leukaemia two weeks before her 19th birthday in February 2019 – after feeling overly tired.
Julia needed the stem cell transplant after her aggressive cancer persisted following two rounds of chemotherapy and she underwent the operation in June 2019 in University College Hospital, London.
The life-saving operation means Julia is now three years in remission and she was able to complete her university degree – and is currently working in Whistler, Canada, on a gap year.
Julia reached out to her anonymous donor in June 2022 and, after swapping letters through the Anthony Nolan charity, she discovered the identity of her donor – Nathan, a research scientist.
The pair met up for the first time in November 2022 and have seen each other again for coffee since.
But Julia soon found out Nathan had been working on his PHD at the University College in the building next door to University College Hospital where she was being treated in 2019 – which meant they were just 100ft away from each other at the time.
Nathan says Julia feels ‘a bit like a sister’ and thinks it is ‘brilliant’ that she has decided to go on to study at medical school.
The 29-year-old, from Islington, London, said: ‘It was crazy to surreal to think she’s got my DNA.
‘It was a bit weird but in the nicest way.
‘She’s a bit like a sister – we have a genetic link between us.
‘We have this link that makes us quite close. It’s the stuff that makes life rich.
‘For a small amount of effort, you get so much out of it.’
Julia was diagnosed after her 60-year-old dad, Dan, advised her to go for a blood test after she told him she was feeling overly tired.
The student went straight into chemotherapy five days after the news but needed a transplant as her aggressive cancer had ‘nasty mutations’.
Doctors immediately started looking for a donor after finding out her brothers – Maxi, 20, and Oscar, 18 – were not one.
When a donor was eventually found the only thing Julia knew about him was that he was a young male.
And since she underwent the surgery, she’s has been able to lead a healthy life.
Julia was able to go back to University of Sussex to finish her neuroscience degree and decided to apply for medical school – which she has deferred while she enjoys a gap year.
The meeting came about as Julia was able to send an anonymous letter to Nathan, through Antony Nolan in June 2022
And, after several communications back and forth, Julia and Nathan found out each other’s identities and organised to meet up.
Julia, who is also from London, said: ‘I got an email with the name, and I was like holy s*** – that’s my donors name.
‘When I found out his name it clicked that this lovely person has donated to me.
‘We were both tentatively trying to say maybe we should meet up. We were both keen to.
‘I had never put together that this person is a whole person with favourite flavours of ice cream and who has two cats.
‘It’s that surrealness of still being alive because of him.
‘I saw him for the first time and just said – “can I give you a hug?”
‘We both have this mutual understanding of the incredible thing Nathan did for me.’
Julia and Nathan decided to meet at the Francis Crick Institute where Nathan now works – and discovered they had been buildings apart at the time of Julia’s treatment.
Julia added: ‘I didn’t tell me family I was meeting him. I wanted to be free of expectation.
‘I was being treated 100ft away – we had no idea. I happened to match with the guy next to me.’
Nathan has yet to meet Julia’s family but is ‘looking forward’ to connecting with them.
He wants to encourage others to sign up to register to be a donor and says it is ‘easier than a Covid swab’.
He said: ‘You can really change or save someone’s life. You have more than a friend for life and a wonderful story to tell.’
Do you have a story to share?
Get in touch by emailing [email protected].
Source: Read Full Article