When Sue Vanvolkingburgh received a life-altering diagnosis 15 years ago, she had no idea it would lead to her meeting the brother she never had.
In 2004, Vanvolkingburgh wasn’t feeling well, after a series of tests, she was diagnosed with aplasticanemia, a blood disorder when the body can’t create enough new blood cells. “By the fall we knew there was no way to avoid a bone marrow transplant.”
Her match was Chris Smith from Barrie, Ontario. Smith says, “I originally went on the list because my niece was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 6 years old.”
The transplant in 2005 was a success.
One year later they received a letter from Canadian Blood Services opening the door for them to meet. Neither hesitated, and since then have become family- calling each other 'blood siblings.'
Vanvaolkingburgh says, “It just felt so comfortable. We just stepped into each other lives like we had known each other forever. I feel very blessed for that. I don’t have siblings of my own.”
The two families get together a few times a year and communicate regularly. They share their story to encourage others to get on the stem cell registry.
Vanvolkingburgh says, “We use our opportunities to get this message out that you will never know when someone will need something….If my story can help one person think about whether they should be on that registry... Chris and I have done what we can do.”
Sue Vanvolkingburgh is back at work as a nurse at CHEO. She says this weekend is a weekend to be thankful for the kindness of strangers.
To be part of the stem cell registry click here.