A mother-of-three has had a tearful reunion with a Maltese hospital chaplain after discovering he was the donor who saved her life in a bone marrow operation in London two years ago.
Fr Mario Sant, 39, is in London to support patients sent for treatment there.
Three years ago he was moved by the plight of a five-year-old boy at Great Ormond Street to become a bone marrow donor.
It was too late to save the boy, who died a few months later, but the priest was put on the international database as a bone marrow donor.
In March 2019, he met leukaemia patient Agnes Vella, 59, who needed stem cells from bone marrow to stop her cancer.
“She was at the Royal Marsden in London, and we joked that I could be her donor, as I was called to donate as she arrived,” Fr Sant told the Press Association.
“But her records said the donor was English and I was born in Malta, so we didn’t think it was me. Plus, I donated at a different hospital, so it just didn’t fit. I think we both hoped and joked about it, but we thought it wasn’t possible.”
Fr Sant and Vella stayed in touch but did not discuss the matter again.
In May last year, Vella wrote to the donors' register seeking information so that she could thank whoever had saved her life. It was then that she learnt, to her surprise, that it was her friend Fr Sant.
It was also a surprise to the priest too.
“It was amazing to discover that I was Agnes’s donor,” Fr Mario said.
This was, by far, not the first time that Fr Mario's donation had saved lives.
Times of Malta reported in 2017 how he donated blood when he came to Malta on holiday.
"Donating an hour of your time would not cost much, except for a bag of platelets, but it went a long way to improve the life of cancer patients," the Conventual Franciscan had said.
The priest has been donating blood since he turned 18, following in his parents’ footsteps. He started donating platelets in 2019 when he realised the high demand for the blood product.
He made his first donation a few days before losing a close friend, Trevor Mercieca, to leukaemia.
Mercieca, who needed about 65 bags of blood in his last six months and a bag of platelets every day, used to describe donations as a “daily gift of life”, his wife Claire had said.
Fr Sant met Mercieca, who was like a brother to him, during one of his trips to London for treatment.
“Despite his deteriorating condition, I learnt a lot from Trevor and we became close friends. I realised he needed a bag of platelets every day, apart from regular blood.
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