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Health

A hockey fan spotted a tiny detail on a stranger's neck. Her quick warning saved his life.

hockey, canucks, kraken, canucks kraken

Nadia Popovici's life-saving message at the Kraken/Canucks game in Seattle via Twitter

This story originally appeared on 01.06.22


Hockey fan Nadia Popovici had been watching the Vancouver Canucks play the Seattle Kraken when she noticed something offputting from the stands that set off alarms from her training as a medical student.

As Canucks assistant equipment manager Brian Hamilton approached the bench, Popovici noticed a small mole on the back of his neck. The marking might have seemed innocent enough, but thanks to her experience volunteering for oncology wards, Popovici recognized the potential danger lurking. So, she quickly took action.

“The mole on the back of your neck is cancer,” read Popovici’s message in big boldly colored letters on her phone screen. It took a few attempts to get her message across during the hustle and bustle of the game, but she eventually got Hamiliton’s attention through the plexiglass.

And sure enough, her on-the-spot prognosis was right.

Hamilton received a biopsy which confirmed that the mole had been cancerous. And if it had gone unaddressed, it would have been life-threatening.


"It was only on the outer layer of my skin,'' Hamilton recalled at a news conference. "It hadn't penetrated to the second layer of my skin and that's because we caught it so early…And the words out of the doctor’s mouth were if I ignored that for four to five years, I wouldn’t be here.”

Moved by this stranger’s act of kindness, Hamilton wrote a heartfelt letter on social media in an attempt to reunite with the woman who saved his life.

His letter read:

"To this woman I am trying to find, you changed my life, and now I want to find you to say THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH! Problem is, I don’t know who you are or where you are from…we are looking for this incredible person…help us find a real life hero, so I can express my sincerest gratitude."

It didn’t take long before the message found its way to Popovici’s mother, who commented:

“She hasn’t even seen this message yet as she worked graveyard shift at the suicide crisis center in Seattle so she’s still asleep. She’ll be shocked to see this message! She will be at the game tonight in the same seats. She’ll be so happy and excited to know he got it checked! What wonderful news!!!! She just got accepted into multiple medical schools!"

Talk about the power of the internet.

And so, the pair had an incredibly sweet reunion at the start of the game that night.

Displaying a truly amazing amount of empathy, Popovici shared with Sportsnet:

"The fact that I got to look him in the eye and hear what happened from his perspective. Imagine how jarring that is to for you to be at work and someone just kind of looks at you and says, `Hey, maybe you go see a doctor.' That's not what you want to hear. So the fact that I got to see him and talk to his family members that have been really impacted by him dodging a big bullet that's so special.''

Popovici is well on her way to saving countless more lives, since both the Canucks and Kraken teamed up to provide a $10,000 scholarship for medical school expenses.

Popovici’s reaction to receiving the reward for her selfless act (in the tweet above) is as heartwarming as the giant kraken beanie she sports.

Though the Canucks won that night, they tweeted that Hamilton and Popovici being able to meet was their “biggest win.”

Popovici told Sportsnet that Hamiton’s mole was a “picture perfect example of what melanoma looks like.”

If you’re wondering what that picture perfect example is, one person left a very helpful tweet so that you might be able to tell the difference between a marking that's benign and one that’s malignant. (Of course, this doesn’t replace getting the help of a trained professional.)

And to Nadia Popovici, who continues to be of service, thank you. More than ever, efforts to show compassion don’t go unnoticed.

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