WOODBURY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A man from Queens who received a life-saving stem cell transplant got to say thank you to the stranger who saved his life.
CBS2’s Valerie Castro reports it was a meeting that took three years and a trip of over 3,800 miles to finally come together.
John Wolf skipped the handshake and went straight for a hug when he met his stem cell donor, 29-year-old Marco Busen, for the first time.
“I got socks older than you! But it’s really, really good to have some young blood,” the 78-year-old said.
Wolf was diagnosed with a form of leukemia in 2015.
Carol Wolf says initially her husband’s prognosis was only three to six months, until she began to research stem cell donation.
“So I did a little research and I found out they were doing it on older people,” Wolf said.
Half way around the world in Germany, Busen decided to register as a stem cell donor after a woman from his community was diagnosed with cancer.
A year later, he found out he was a match for Wolf, a man from Richmond Hill, Queens.
“I’m speechless right now, unable to find the words just so grateful and glad I’m able to save his life and he’s such an amazing person and I’m just speechless,” Busen said.
A bag of stem cells was transfused into Wolf’s body in May of 2016 after undergoing several days of chemotherapy in preparation.
“I went in the hospital on May 4. On May 11 was my rebirth date,” John Wolf said.
A week later, he celebrated his one-week birthday. Now two years later, he’s looking forward to the rest of his life.
“To you young fellow, you’re my second chance at life,” Wolf told Busen.
That second chance came with the help of the Don Monti Memorial Research Foundation at North Shore University Hospital, where Wolf was treated.
The hospital focuses on stem cell and bone marrow donation. Busen says given the chancehe would donate all over again and urges others to do the same.
“Everybody should register, it’s painless, doesn’t cost any penny,” Wolf added.
“He would be my second son… I’d have to say grandson.”
After the United States, Germany has the second largest bone marrow and stem cell donor program with more than eight million people registered.