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04
Apr

A man from Cardiff has met the German stranger who saved his life by donating stem cells.

Lawrence Trace, 59, was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma in 2005 and his only hope was a bone marrow transplant.

There was only one suitable match on the worldwide register – 21-year-old Max Jeckeln from Raunheim, Germany.

Following the transplant in 2012, the pair built up a friendship over letters, emails and phone calls and finally met this week.

Mr Trace donated his Velothon Wales medal to Mr Jeckeln on Wednesday – a medal he said would not have been possible without the transplant, which took place at University Hospital of Wales.

He said he would not be alive today without Mr Jeckeln.

“I was very nervous, and it was very emotional,” Mr Trace said.

“It was a very strange feeling to meet the man who saved my life. But it was also wonderful.

“I wanted to get in touch with Max to tell him that I was alive and kicking – and the relationship grew from there. He seems to love Wales.”

Shortly after he was first told he had cancer, Mr Trace’s sister was diagnosed with leukaemia, and later died. In 2011, his wife was also diagnosed with breast cancer, and recovered.

The bone marrow team at the Welsh Blood Service searched the worldwide register and found only one suitable match for Mr Trace – Mr Jeckeln.

“It was a 14 million to one chance that I would find Max. And then, even with the transplant, there was only a 16% chance that I would survive,” Mr Trace said.

Following his transplant, Mr Trace’s health steadily improved. He is now in full remission.

“I took Max up to Caerphilly Mountain to show him where I cycled, with his help,” Mr Trace said.

“To anyone who is thinking of becoming a donor – just register. Even if the odds are overwhelming, I am proof that you can survive.”

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