Brother from Another Mother – 10 Years of Mackenzie and Alexander
A Brief Surgery for Alexander, a Lifeline for Mackenzie
At the age of 16, Mackenzie Curran from Canada faced a crushing diagnosis: Myelodysplastic Syndrome, quickly turning into leukemia. As a basketball player, she felt an increasing fatigue, initially dismissed by doctors as a harmless virus. However, mornings brought a growing weakness that led to further tests and ultimately, a cancer diagnosis.
From that moment, it was clear: only a stem cell transplant could save her. But there was no matching donor within her family. Not even in the Canadian stem cell registry. “It was scary,” Mackenzie recalls. “We heard of storys where they couldn’t find a match.”
But then the life-changing news came: a suitable donor was found. As it turned out later: Alexander Türk from Saarland, Germany, then 23, was her „genetic twin.“ Five years earlier, he had registered for the DKMS during a registration event at his local volunteer fire department. “Receiving that letter is overwhelming,” Alexander remembers. “There’s fear, which is normal I guess. But then you realize someone needs your help, and you can help.”
So, he placed his trust in the hands of the doctors and donated bone marrow. A rarer procedure since 90% of stem cells are now extracted from the bloodstream. However, depending on the needs of the patient, a bone marrow transplant can be medically necessary. In such cases, bone marrow is extracted from the donor’s pelvic bone under general anesthesia, just as Alexander underwent the procedure.
For Alexander, it was a brief surgery. For Mackenzie, it meant a new lease on life. The treatment was successful, and within a year, Mackenzie’s recovery was visibly evident. „I finally started to feel back like myself again,“ she shares. Thanks to Alexanders donation, she could resume sports, attend school, and live her life fully once more. And he, too, was well post-donation. Alexander completed his studies and became a teacher.
At that time, Mackenzie didn’t know who her savior was. “We just knew he was a man from somewhere in the world.” Only after a two-year anonymity period ended they could finally connect – and they did.
Their first meeting, captured by Canadian television, was “very emotional”, Mackenzie reflects. Her family invited Alexander to Canada and welcomed him at the airport. “For so many months we wondered: Who is this man?” For Alexander it was emotional as well to meet Mackenzie and her family. “You see the impact a small donation can make.”
Their connection didn’t end with one visit. The “genetic twins” kept in touch through postcards and calls. By the time Mackenzie married in December 2022 in Florida, they had become close friends, and Alex was a surprise guest at her wedding. „Finally, my husband got to meet my lifesaver,“ Mackenzie beams with joy.
Since the transplant, every November 20th, Mackenzie celebrates her second birthday with cupcakes. The 10th anniversary of her transplant this year called for a special celebration, complete with a ’10‘ topped cupcake in Germany. At Alexanders home in Saarbrücken. Mackenzie, along with her mother and sister Kelsey, also wanted to meet his family. „Maybe Alex wouldn’t have donated if he didn’t have such a warm and welcoming family,“ she muses.
Part of their plan included visiting a large registration event at Alexanders school, TGBBZ 1. With their story, they aimed to inspire more people to register as potential stem cell donors. To show how simple saving a life can be. And their message resonated. The auditorium fell silent as Alexander and Mackenzie shared their story. Videos of their first meeting moved everyone, especially the students, with nearly a third of them registering that very day. For Mackenzie’s mother Joanne, Alexander is “like the son I never had”. And Mackenzie agrees, “Alex is like a brother”.
A family Alexander found through three simple swabs. “Register for a possible stem cell donation with DKMS,” he urges. “Saving a life is that easy.”