Two men, Tom (l) and Rod (r). Tom has his arm around, Rod. Tom is wearing an Anthony Nolan donor t-shirt under a shirt & blue jeans. Rod is wearing a floral shirt underneath a blue sweater and blue jeans.

Transatlantic Transplant: Canadian man flies 4,000 miles to meet lifesaving Sheffield stem cell donor

May 6, 2024

Rod Neander, from Western Canada was diagnosed with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, a type of blood cancer, in 2018. Six years later, after flying over 4,000 miles to England, Rod was able to meet the Sheffield stranger whose stem cells saved his life.

After joining the Anthony Nolan stem cell register as a teenager, Tom Marshall, 30, from Sheffield, donated his stem cells at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital during the pandemic.

Medical Gas Engineer Tom’s good deed then led to not only a lifesaving transatlantic transplant, but also to a fulfilling friendship.

Two years after the transplant, the pair began communicating and then, in April 2024, after countless emails and video calls, the duo finally met when Rod, a father of three in his early sixties, came to England to meet Tom and his family in their hometown of Sheffield.

Stem cell donor Tom says, ‘I was more excited than apprehensive about meeting Rod. Meeting him in person made me feel that donating stem cells is the best thing that I've ever done.

‘Becoming a dad has made me realise that time is so precious and donating stem cells to give Rod more time is the best gift that I have ever given. The blood we share hasn't just made us friends but more like family,’ he said.

Stem cell transplant recipient Rod, says ‘The chance to say thank you to Tom, my stem cell donor, is overwhelming. The stem cell transplant allowed me to get back to the things I love.’

Tom added, ‘If the honour of being a stem cell donor for another patient were to arise, I wouldn't have to pause for a heartbeat to give my time again.’

Henny Braund MBE, Chief Executive of Anthony Nolan says: ‘Our donors like Tom are incredible; they allow Anthony Nolan to save lives through stem cells.

‘If you are aged 16-30, please visit our website to join the stem cell register to become a lifesaver like Tom. Anthony Nolan needs more young men to step forward, as they are more likely to be chosen to donate. Currently men aged under 30 make up more than half of those asked to donate their stem cells but make up only 16% of the register.

‘If you can’t join the Anthony Nolan register, please support our work by making a financial donation. Your money will help give someone like Rod the best chance of survival.’

Nadine Prevost, Business Unit Director, Research & Community Services, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada , says :‘We at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada are honoured that Rod, a lymphoma survivor benefiting from our services and support for years, has shared this personal milestone with us.’

‘Since Tom’s gift of life to Rod is a beautiful example of the significance of stem cell donation, we reached out to the Canadian Blood Services, our national stem cell registry, to collaborate in telling this story. We hope to reach as many potential donors as possible to save the lives of people with blood cancers and others who need stem cell transplants.’

Anthony Nolan makes lifesaving connections between patients and strangers. The charity advocates for those in need of a stem cell transplant, helps patients find a match, facilitates transplants, and supports patients and their families before, during, and after the transplant process.

A particular focus for Anthony Nolan is recruiting people from diverse backgrounds to the register so that more patients from minority ethnic backgrounds – who often have unique tissue types - can find their lifesaving match.

Over the last 50 years, Anthony Nolan research has been at the forefront of this cutting-edge science, focusing on advancing equity of access and developing new technology such as cell and gene therapies – so that more patients can survive and thrive.

Watch the moment Rod and Tom met for the first time on Tik Tok.