ST. LOUIS — When 38-year-old Michael Hellrich received an email from Be The Match in his inbox in August, originally, he thought it was spam.
“I actually texted my wife because she’s a nurse," said Hellrich. I was like, 'Hey, I got this email that I’m supposed to donate bone marrow, what do you think?'" "And she was like, 'I think it’s a really good thing to do.'"
Hellrich was caught off guard because he registered four years ago when the Blues held their first Be The Match night in 2013.
“Four years ago is when you had the feels about signing up," said Hellrich. "Once you start reading the stories, it was a yes. It became no doubt at all.”
Hellrich was ‘all in’, and in early October he flew to Washington, D.C., for the procedure. There are two ways that people in Hellrich’s postion can donate. One is less-evasive, the other is when the marrow is physically extracted from the hips and that’s the way he donated.
“They asked me and said, 'Hey this is the way we want to do it, is that ok?' And I said, 'Yeah, sure.'" If it’s better for the recipient than I’m in. You’re that one person that can save that person’s life.”
Hellrich can’t meet his recipient for at least a year, but in the basement of the Scottrade Center on Saturday he met the Schwartz family. It was a moment Rick and Carol had longed for, for many years. To have a meeting like this, with a donor, that would have saved their daughter Mandi’s life.
“Back in 2008, when my daughter was diagnosed with leukemia, she didn’t have a match," said Rick Schwartz, Jaden's father.
Knowing she had no match, one of Mandi’s wishes, was to help other’s in her same fight. There have been bone marrow drives in her name in Canada, where the Schwartz’s are from, and at Yale. The university Mandi loved and played hockey for.
“We’ve met recipients and we’ve met donors," added Rick Schwartz. "Through the Yale drives and through the drives that they had in Saskatchewan in 2009. What a feeling."
Be The Match night is just one of many ways the Blues’ organization has supported the Schwartz’s, Mandi’s legacy, and their star forward Jaden.
“The Blues are Jaden’s family when we’re not here," Carol Schwartz said as tears started to fill in her eyes. "Obviously the steps they’ve done to support him through his loss of his sister. I know it was very hard on all of us.”
“We know that Jaden thinks of Mandi every single day and he plays the game, I think for her," said Rick.
When Blues' teammate Vladimir Sobotka left for Russia to play in the KHL, Jaden requested to switch to No. 17 since that was his sister's number when played as a forward for Yale University. It meant the world to his parents. Rick even thanks Sobotka for giving up his number. They love seeing the 'No. 17' on Jaden's back.