Nanaimo man to be honoured for life-saving donation

A Nanaimo man is promoting the benefits of advancements in social media and medical technologies that can help save lives.

Michael Hogman

Michael Hogman

A Nanaimo man is promoting the benefits of advancements in social media and medical technologies that can help save lives.

Michael Hogman, 24, an army reservist and a service technician for Nanaimo-based Oughtred Coffee & Tea, will receive special recognition from Canadian Blood Services at its Honour Our Lifeblood awards ceremony in Ontario Sept. 19, 20.

He is being highlighted because of the circumstances leading to his donation that saved the life of Huw Williams, 44, of Ottawa, Ont., who was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia in 2008.

Williams’ only hope for surviving the disease was to receive a bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor. Even with the transplant, Williams had only a 50 per cent chance of survival.

That year a friend introduced Hogman to OneMatch, a Facebook page by the Canadian Blood Services bone marrow and stem cell division that helps match donors to potential recipients. Hogman signed up as a donor.

“I figured, why not?” Hogman said. “I saw the link. It’s super easy to sign up. It’s just like donating blood or signing up for organ donations.”

Three weeks later he received a package in the mail containing swabs. Donors swab the inside of their mouths and mail the package back to Canadian Blood Services where donor DNA profiles are generated from the samples and kept on file to await possible matching recipients.

Some people wait up to 10 years for a donation request, but just seven months later Hogman was matched with Williams who needed Hogman’s stem cells immediately.

Hogman went to Vancouver General Hospital for the procedure.

Technology has changed bone marrow stem cell harvesting dramatically. What used to be an invasive painful process where sections of bone marrow were removed from the donor’s thigh or pelvis, is now no more invasive than a dialysis session.

Five days prior to donation, the donor receives injections that over-stimulate bone marrow to force stem cells into the donor’s blood stream. The harvesting procedure starts when the injections have done their work.

“They hook you up to what is probably the equivalent of a dialysis machine – two lines, one in each of your wrists,” Hogman said. “The blood comes out. They filter the stem cells out of your blood and the blood goes right back into your body.”

It takes about nine hours to harvest about 250 millilitres of stem cells.

The procedure is painless with no side effects or medication required afterward.

“Your bones kind of ache a tiny bit, but no more than if you went to the gym,” he said.

Williams received Hogman’s stem cells, which were flown to Ontario the next day, and began his fight to recovery.

Hogman said he is grateful to have been able to help Williams who is married with three children and a philanthropist who can continue doing charity work in his community. Williams is also president of Impact Public Affairs and specializes in government and media relations.

The men met for the first time when Hogman flew to Ontario in April.

“He’s one of the more active people I know,” Hogman said. “He’s out on the water. He’s out hiking and mountain climbing. He’d doing all this and he just got over leukemia just two years ago. He’s in great shape and he’s doing well.”

Williams said Hogman’s efforts to save many more lives by getting the message out to donors to support OneMatch through countless TV, radio and newspaper interviews, make him a true hero.

“Yes, technology has advanced, but in my case it is really the single act of donation that made the biggest difference,” Williams said. Mike gave me the gift of life. I will see my girls graduate high school and beyond and with some good luck meet my grand kids.”