"I have a brother now!”, says Daniel to Marco

9 August 2016

Last week, 25–year-old Daniel O’Brien from Nottingham travelled to Germany and visited the DKMS offices in Cologne to meet the man whose life he saved.

Daniel donated blood stem cells to 39-year-old Marco Wehser, a patient with DKMS in Germany, as part of the treatment of Marco’s leukaemia on 3 August 2012. Four years later, Marco and Daniel had a very emotional and moving meeting. Daniel shared with us:

“I had registered as a potential donor with the British Bone Marrow Register whilst donating blood and was called forward three months after being on the register to donate.After I donated, the stem cells were transported to Germany and were received by Marco. Myself and the then unknown recipient had to remain in total anonymity for security reasons.

In 2014 I discovered the identity of my stem cells recipient, Marco Wehser, He had gone on to lead a happy and healthy life with his wife and they had gone on to have twin boys since the transplantation. I have now been given the opportunity to finally meet him and his family in Germany. I cannot describe how overwhelming the feeling has been for me and Marco. I now have a brother for life who happens to live in a different country with a complete different language. Now it is time to enjoy Germany with my new brother and hopefully he can teach my a few useful words in German”.

Looking back at how the happy ending story began, Daniel says:

"I couldn’t believe that I’d ever be called upon because I am somebody’s match – the probability of being somebody’s match is so low. When I got the news that I really could be a lifesaver for a patient, I couldn’t believe it. In this moment, things got less abstract. It was more than a piece of paper – it meant the possibility to save somebody’s life.

Shortly before the donation a thought came into my mind: “This is real, you can give a second chance of life to someone in need. Five days before the blood stem cell collection I got injections to stimulate the stem cell production. My muscles were aching a bit at that point – similar to the ache after doing exercises in the gym. For me it was absolutely fine.

Just before the donation I was a little bit nervous and felt a bit sick. But during the donation I was relaxed and fell asleep. My mum supported me 100 % and I received fantastic support from my family and friends.

Of course I had thoughts about the patient – for example, are they a man or a woman? A child or maybe at my age? Do they have children? A lot of questions really. The day after my donation I got the news that the recipient was a 36-year-old man. This meant a lot to me and I wished I could meet him in person – if he would like to meet me too.

I always wanted to have a big brother when I was younger. In my family, I’m the oldest sibling. Since my donation, I finally got a big brother. I received the first letter from Marco just before Christmas in 2012 - a very long letter which triggered so many emotions. Of course it contained no name or personal details because that was during the two year phase of anonymity. In this letter he explained very emotionally what the donation meant to him. Let me put it this way: This letter was the best Christmas gift ever.

When the airplane flew into Dortmund my hands started trembling. When I left the security area I couldn’t find Marco at first – but then I saw him, he had turned back and was obviously also searching for me. So I tapped him on the shoulder and we fell into each others arms. That was an incomparable experience. We started a conversation straight away and discovered the first things we had in common. We both like the TV series “Dexter” and our favourite colour is red. It’s great that we had such a close connection between us from the moment we met. I also learnt my first German words from Marco’s little twins. For example “Bagger” (which means “excavator”) and “Schuh” (which means “shoe”).

Yesterday was the best experience of my entire life. I finally got to meet my brother from another country. I’d like to urge everybody to become a donor – you can have the same experience. And you can save a life.”

Every 20 minutes, someone living in the UK is diagnosed with a blood cancer such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma. Registering as a potential blood stem cell donor takes just a couple of minutes but could be one of the most important things you ever do. If you live in the UK, you are in good health and are aged between 17 to 55 you could be a potential lifesaver. Simply register online at our website www.dkms.org.uk and request a cheek swab kit.

Find out how Marco felt throughout his leukaemia treatment and when he met his donor.