Brennan Turner has lost his friend but he hasn't lost the desire to fight for her.
The 24-year-old defenceman who befriended the late Mandi Schwartz, of Wilcox, Sask., is continuing to lead a bone marrow drive that could save the lives of others. Schwartz was diagnosed in 2008 with acute myeloid leukemia, an aggressive cancer that attacks the bone marrow, and had undergone several treatments, including chemotherapy. She was scheduled for a bone marrow transplant this August after a donor was found but she died April 3 at the age of 23 after her cancer returned.
Turner, who like Schwartz played hockey at Yale University, is part of the OneMatch stem cell and marrow search operated by the Canadian Blood Services. There are several donation drives planned for Western Canada, including one in Regina this weekend and one in Calgary and Saskatoon on June 18-19.
"They're looking for a specific age group, 17 to 39, and especially people of Black, Latin and Aboriginal descent," said Turner. "It takes 15 minutes and (the collectors) do a cheek swab and the results are on (the CSB's) reporting for 30 years."
Turner had helped lead the charge to find a suitable donor for Schwartz. Schwartz's teammates at Yale also held bone marrows drives and, according to Turner, five samples collected have produced matches for people in need.
"It wasn't all for naught," said Turner, who has remained in close contact with the Schwartz family. "We didn't get the result everyone was hoping for Mandi, but there's hope for others. I talked to Rick (Schwartz, Mandi's dad) the other day and he doesn't wish this on any family."
Turner remains under contract to the Binghamton Senators of the American Hockey League.