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'Blood siblings' share story of thanks

Chris Smith (right) and Sue Vanvolkingburgh (left) share a hug at Smith's son's restaurant in Wasaga Beach on Jan. 21, 2024 (Catalina Gillies/CTV News). Chris Smith (right) and Sue Vanvolkingburgh (left) share a hug at Smith's son's restaurant in Wasaga Beach on Jan. 21, 2024 (Catalina Gillies/CTV News).
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A stem cell donor reunited with the recipient of his donation on Sunday to mark their 20th anniversary since the donation.

Barrie resident Chris Smith donated his stem cells to Ottawa resident Sue Vanvolkingburgh in 2003. Vanvolkingburgh was diagnosed with a blood disorder that causes the body to stop producing new blood cells.

She needed a sibling match or an anonymous donor, and Smith was the perfect match. They met at a Canadian Blood Services event two years later and have remained close friends. They call each other "the blood siblings" and say their bond was entirely unexpected.

"I've been a donor of blood. I've given over 100 units of blood over the years, and I never got to meet any of those people, so I just looked at it as the same thing," said Chris Smith, who donated his blood to Vanvolkingburgh. "This is a real bonus, and it's almost like family now because we do a lot of things together and communicate together."

Vanvolkingburgh decided to surprise Smith on Sunday at his son's restaurant in Wasaga Beach.

"When this day approached, I realized how very lucky and blessed I am," she said. "It's quite actually overwhelming to just realize how lucky I am to have these people in my life and to have had the opportunity to live healthy for 20 extra years."

Both Smith and Vanvolkingburgh encourage anyone to sign up to be a donor.  

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