It was a hug they’d been waiting for four years; and it was one that Ken Campbell and Jake Wright will remember for the rest of their lives.
Winnipegger Campbell met Wright, who is from Walla Walla, Washington, for the first time on Thursday.
The pair had been anticipating the meeting ever since 2014, when they were intertwined by fate.
“In 2010, my life changed forever,” Campbell said on Friday. “I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and went through many months of chemo, to no avail. The treatments didn’t work.
Campbell, who didn’t have any relatives who could donate on his behalf, was put on the registry and forced to wait while doctors searched for a donor.
Enter Wright, who was watching his uncle battle an illness of his own across the border.
“I was thinking about what I could do to help,” Wright said, “and I remembered people said you can get on a bone marrow registry. But I wasn’t expecting to get a call.”
The two men, separated by 32 years and more than 2,000 kilometres, were a rare 10 out of 10 compatibility for a transplant.
“I thought, if I can’t be a match for my uncle, maybe I can be a match for someone else. Maybe I’ll help somebody get to spend more time with their family.”
So, from his home in Walla Walla, which is near the Washington-Oregon border, Wright sat down to donate.
It was a process that took more than three hours, with doctors taking blood from one of Wright’s arms and injecting it back into the other.
It wasn’t an easy donation, but Campbell received his life-saving bone marrow transplant thanks to Wright’s good deed.
“I couldn’t believe it was happening, really,” Campbell said.
It was something so personal, that one year after the donation, when given the option to contact his anonymous hero, the Winnipeg teacher wrote a letter.
After years of email contact, on Thursday, the two met face to face exactly four years after the donation.
WATCH: After years of email contact, donor and recipient of a life-saving bone marrow transplant met face to face in Winnipeg on Thursday
“I just couldn’t wait for him to come and I just needed to hug him,” Campbell said. “I’m sure he thought it was really weird but I wouldn’t let go”.
“When my uncle was going through what he was going through, me being able to donate to you — even just hearing the news we were a match — was a huge a huge boost for my uncle and grandpa and I think he got a couple months out of it,” Wright said to Campbell. “It’s just nice to finally get out to Winnipeg and see you.”
One man and his hero had finally connected, with plans to stay that way.
“It was a treat to see him for the first time. It was four years in the making.”
Anyone interested in becoming a donor themselves can learn more about CancerCare’s program here.