Blood Cancer survivor meets "The guardian angel I never knew I had"

4 September 2019

Gurmail signed up with DKMS to be a donor in 2013. Six years later, coinciding with Blood Cancer Awareness Month, he travelled 5000 miles to Vancouver, Canada, to meet the stranger whose life he saved.

Daljit Sanders meeting her donor Gurmail Sagoo for the first time

Gurmail Sagoo, 41, from Birmingham, has travelled across the world to meet the stranger whose life he saved.

Gurmail, who works as a business intelligence developer, met Canadian Daljit Sanders, 33, for the first time in her home city of Vancouver, Canada, as she thanked him for donating his blood stem cells in a transplant which has given her a second chance at life.

He signed up with DKMS to become a potential lifesaver in late 2013, after seeing an urgent appeal on behalf of a 3-year-old boy – the same age as his son at the time – who was in need of a lifesaving blood stem cell donor.

Daljit, who is currently studying for her masters, had been told that her chances of long term survival without a blood stem cell transplant were slim. Her mum, two sisters and brother had all been tested, but none were genetic matches, meaning her only hope was to find a matching stranger on the global registry.

Gurmail said: “I picked up a voicemail late on a Friday from DKMS, saying they were trying to get in touch with me as I’d been identified as a match for a patient with blood cancer. I honestly couldn’t believe it – I had always hoped one day I might be told I was a match for someone who needed help”.

He immediately attended a series of medical assessments to evaluate his suitability, and in early 2015 he travelled to London to donate via peripheral blood stem cell collection – a 4-5 hour out-patient procedure, similar to giving blood. “A courier came to collect the stem cells. He personally travels with them and delivers them to the patient’s hospital. He told me that they are going to a female patient in Vancouver, Canada.”

Gurmail Sagoo at the London clinic donating his blood stem cells in 2015

Meanwhile, 5,000 miles away in Vancouver, Daljit, who is also diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, was preparing for the transplant which would offer her only hope of survival.

She said: “I’m the first person in my family and social circle to be affected by a cancer diagnosis. I was told I had secondary acute myeloid leukaemia on January 7 – the anniversary of my MS diagnosis. January 7 is not a good day for me”.

“Ahead of receiving my blood stem cell transplant, I was terrified, but above all, relieved. Suddenly I had hope that I would have more time to be with the people I love most in this world.”

In the weeks following the transplant, doctors closely monitored Daljit’s progress, and were encouraged to see her body was accepting Gurmail’s stem cells, which were now producing cells of their own. As she began to recover, DKMS provided an opportunity for Gurmail and Daljit to begin communicating, anonymously, via their London office.

“Gurmail sent me a card” said Daljit. “All it said was ‘To You, hope all is well, from Me”. It was the first time the gravity of what he did for me hit home.”

As they reached their two-year anniversary – the point at which UK law allows a donor and patient to have their identities revealed to each other – Gurmail and Daljit were formally introduced by DKMS, and they were able to communicate directly.

Since donating his blood stem cells, Gurmail has become a prolific DKMS volunteer

Since donating his stem cells, Gurmail has become a prolific DKMS volunteer, helping to organise 2-3 events per week in the West Midlands to encourage more people to join the register. He said: “Daljit and I have been in regular contact via email, phone calls and messages. We began making plans for my wife, family and I to travel to Vancouver. I was so excited to finally meet her for the first time”.

About meeting her lifesaver, Daljit said: “I was excited, nervous, anxious, happy, joyful. He is part of me now. His blood, his DNA runs through my veins and meeting the person that saved my life is like meeting the guardian angel I never knew I had.”

“We all have a responsibility to make life better for each other in this crazy world. Any small act of kindness can impact someone’s life in a positive way. Registering with DKMS to become a donor is one way to make a positive impact on the world.”

Daljit Sanders (left) and her donor Gurmail Sagoo (right)

How you can help

If you’d like to register as a potential blood stem cell donor you can check your eligibility and request a home swab kit today.

Anyone aged between 17-55 and in general good health can go on standby as a potential lifesaver. If you're not eligible or you're already registered, why not check the other ways to get involved in the fight against blood cancer or help us cover donor registration costs?