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Philadelphia Wings player, Connecticut man will be forever bonded by bone marrow donation: "He's my hero"

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Three years ago, a Philadelphia Wings lacrosse player helped save a stranger's life through a bone marrow donation. 

Last December, the pair had a chance to meet at a game in Philly. 

Bone marrow produces healthy blood cells, so a bone marrow or stem cell transplant is a lifesaving gift for patients facing several illnesses, including blood cancer. 

But before the science came into play, this story began with a slice of pizza. 

"It was just a regular day going to class and they had a stem cell drive there, where they were offering a slice of pizza if you got swabbed," Alex Pace, a Philadelphia Wings player and bone marrow donor, said.  

Back in college in Canada, Pace was swabbed to be a bone marrow donor. Years later, he got a phone call that he was a perfect match. 

"I remember sitting in the hospital actually when I was donating and asking the nurse, 'Like, do you have any idea where this is going?'" Pace said.  

Pace said the donation process is anonymous, but after the procedure, donors and their recipients can opt-in to meet. 

"He's stuck with me now," Tom Mix, a bone marrow recipient, said. 

Mix, 53, is from Connecticut. In 2021 he was diagnosed with blood cancer and needed chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant to survive. His family didn't match — but Pace did — in what doctors call a 10/10 perfect match. 

Mix's transplant set a record at Yale, where he was treated, and nearly three years later the husband and father of four is in full remission. 

"I feel great. I actually just came from a workout — Alex would like that," Mix said. 

Mix and Pace first connected in the months after the transplant via Zoom until they could finally meet last December at a Wings game.

While Pace shakes off the label of hero, Mix says otherwise.

"He's my hero and will always be my hero," Mix said.  

And now this pair who share DNA say they're bonded forever by a gift that keeps on giving.   

"I think it's just fate. The same thing that drove me to be at school that day and walk by that stem cell drive is the same reason why were a 99% match," Pace said.  

Pace and Mix say their families have become close and Mix regularly drives down to cheer on Pace at his games in Philly. 

The Wings have also partnered with the NMDP, signing up fans during games. The entire Wings team has been swabbed and registered. 

Both Pace and Mix say they're so grateful to be able to continue to spread the word about this lifesaving gift.

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