An Irishman with a devastating diagnosis may have had his life saved because he previously helped out a stranger.
Nick Heather, a 33-year-old Dubliner living in Australia, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), a rare and aggressive form of cancer, in July.
He was given a 50 percent survival rate of being here next year but was told a successful bone marrow transplant could potentially save his life.
Out of Nick’s four siblings, his sister Sarah-Jane was the only match for a bone marrow transplant.
However, Sarah-Jane was in Saudi Arabia, and it was extremely difficult to get her to Melbourne during the COVID-19 pandemic as Australia has one of the strictest lockdowns worldwide.
“It was great news that she was a match. But then there was the problem of trying to get her to Melbourne to get started,” Nick told Independent.ie.
“With there being such a strict lockdown in Victoria and with the borders being closed there were no flights into Melbourne.
“So, the hospital booked her a flight that subsequently got canceled, they then were trying to find her another flight but they kind of told me ‘Look, it's not looking great at the moment.’
“So, that was pretty devastating to hear at the time.”
Nick then remembered an incident that happened just three weeks before he was diagnosed with leukemia.
He was driving his construction company's van and stopped at a traffic light, where a man pulled down his window and asked Nick if he could have a chat with him.
Nick pulled over to talk to the stranger, who was also from Dublin. The man said he best friend’s 19-year-old son needed some work and he asked Nick if he could help him.
“When I got back to the office that day I said let's get him in for an interview and we did hire him apparently, but I wasn't involved and I never really thought about it again.
“It was only then when we were thinking of the transplant and struggling to get Sarah-Jane a flight that I remembered that guy and I remembered that his dad was high up at Etihad airways.
“So I got his details, got in contact with him and he remembered me, luckily. So he said ‘Look, things are crazy right now but I'll do what I can for you.’
“And two days later he had her on a flight.”
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Anyone traveling to Australia must self-isolate for two weeks in a hotel room approved by the government. Those in quarantine aren’t allowed outside for fresh air and basic food is delivered to the room
Nick’s sister and her husband Brendan Phelan, 34, are currently self-isolating in an Australian hotel. While Brendan is in the room, he will be running 152km on a treadmill provided by the hotel to raise money that will be split between Nick’s treatments and the Leukemia Foundation in Australia. He hopes to raise $150,000.
On the GoFundMe page Phelan wrote of his best friend "'Nothing has put life more in perspective than the perseverance and strength Nick has shown over the last four months."
Nick is scheduled to receive the bone marrow transplant from his sister on December 11.
He said he is nervous about the procedure but remains positive about his recovery.
“It's a pretty daunting thing to go into, I’m not going to lie, but I do feel good about it," he said.
“I feel I have a better chance than the doctors have given me as I've tolerated all the treatments well so far.
“So, I don't see this to be any different, and sure, I'm nervous about it. But, it gives me a great opportunity to actually be cured of a pretty horrible disease.”
Nick also said that the experience has given him a different outlook on life and now believes people look out for each other as it often comes full circle.
“If you can do something for someone, I would go above and beyond now to do it.”
To donate to the fundraiser, visit the GoFundMe page here.