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24 Jun 2016 7 Comments

Man travels across continents to thank his stem cell donor

Stem cell success stories are always special. They reinforce a lot of belief in the concept and promise a bright future for the medical industry and patients. One such story is that of Al Malcolm who has travelled to Frankfurt, Germany, to meet his stem cell donor Sebastian Menge. A special connection is established between the two men following a transplant of Menge’s stem cells into Al’s body in October 2013 for a treatment of acute myeloid leukemia.

Al was first diagnosed in 2012 with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. Al battled that for 6 months and was unfortunately diagnosed with another form of cancer – myeloid leukemia, in April 2013.

Al’s family spent the summer of 2013 anxiously waiting for a match which came through in October 2013. Further to the transplant, Al spent months at the hospital where the doctors watched out for signs of rejection and other complications. His fight was however no mean feat, as he had to be airlifted to the hospital twice in the two years between 2012 and 2014 and put in an induced coma and kept in a ventilator for 10 days. His lungs were severely damaged and his recovery included learning how to walk. His recent side effects include problems with his eyes and feet.

Al’s attributes his survival to the stem cell transplant and wishes to meet his donor Menge and tour Germany with the families to complete the circle. Menge mentioned that he had registered years ago during a campaign to find a match for a woman in their town. Several years later he was willing to help someone. He went through more tests to confirm his health, then a few days before the donation, he was given medication that causes the body to produce more stem cells.

“I was very excited before and during the donation,” he said. “But it didn’t hurt … It was great to help someone even if I did not know who I was helping.”

Al is now urging people in Canada to come forward and register as donors with OneMatch.ca to increase the possibility for patients like him to find a stem cell match and get well.

PC: Tyler Brownbridge / WindsorStar

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