A Seattle Kraken fan is being praised as a hero — and awarded $10,000 — after helping the assistant equipment manager of the Vancouver Canucks identify a cancerous mole on his neck in the middle of a game.
The incident occurred on Oct. 23, in the Kraken’s first-ever home game in Seattle.
Nadia Popovici, a 22-year-old Seattle resident originally from Canada, was sitting behind the Canucks bench that day when she noticed an irregularly shaped mole on the back of staffer Brian (Red) Hamilton’s neck.
Popovici, who is going to medical school next year, said the mole caught her eye as Hamilton walked across the bench between periods.
“I spotted some of the classic signs, you know, irregular borders, a little bit of discoloration and a pretty large diameter,” Popovici told CBC News.
“I thought, you know, it can’t hurt just to say something.”
Popovici then held up a note on her phone to the plexiglass behind the Canucks bench, alerting Hamilton and telling him the mole could possibly be cancerous.
Though Hamilton says he initially brushed off the note, he later had the team doctor check it out and discovered it was a malignant melanoma that could have had life-threatening consequences if it was left untreated.
“She saved my life,” he told a news conference on Saturday. “She didn’t take me out of a burning car, like in the big stories, but she took me out of a slow fire.”
The Canucks had posted a callout on Twitter on Saturday trying to find the fan who alerted Hamilton to the mole on the back of his neck. Two hours later, they tweeted that she had been found.
<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/HockeyTwitter?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#HockeyTwitter</a>, we need your help!<br><br>Please RT to spread the word and help us connect Red with the woman he considers his hero. <a href=”https://t.co/HlZybgOnjf”>pic.twitter.com/HlZybgOnjf</a>
Hamilton said he wrote the callout to let Popovici know that her persistence was rewarded and called her a “great human being.”
“I’m just so happy that he has gotten it removed and we can move forward,” Popovici said. “Hopefully he lives a very, very long life and we can all celebrate this moment for a while.”
Popovici attended Seattle’s home game against the Canucks on Saturday, meeting Hamilton before the puck dropped. The two shared a hug that was later broadcast on the jumbotron.
During the game, the Kraken and Canucks announced that the two teams would be giving Popovici $10,000, to go toward her medical school funding, as recognition of her good deed.
Together with the <a href=”https://twitter.com/SeattleKraken?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@SeattleKraken</a>, we awarded Nadia Popovici a $10,000 scholarship for medical school as a show of our appreciation 👏 <a href=”https://t.co/VgK8aMgJTA”>pic.twitter.com/VgK8aMgJTA</a>
‘How she saw it boggles my mind’
According to Popovici, she was a Canucks fan growing up but has thrown her support behind the Kraken since moving to Seattle.
“It was a big point of discourse on if I should wear my Canucks jersey or my Kraken jersey to the first game,” she said, laughing.
Popovici was working at a crisis hotline the night of New Year’s Eve and said she woke up to her excited mother calling her after the Canucks’ Twitter post.
“The first thing she says is, ‘Nadia, you don’t even know what’s happening right now,'” Popovici said. “And she said, ‘Look at your phone.’
“The moment that I held my phone up … I couldn’t believe it.”
The internet community helped us find Brian’s hero, Nadia, and tonight they met in person where he got to express his sincerest thank you to her for saving his life. <br><br>A story of human compassion at its finest. <a href=”https://t.co/66ogo5hB1a”>pic.twitter.com/66ogo5hB1a</a>
Hamilton has been with the Canucks since 2002 in various roles and is originally from Richmond, B.C. He says he got the mole removed half an hour before a game, and subsequent screenings were negative for anything cancerous.
He says that doctors told him that if he had ignored the mole for four to five years, he “wouldn’t be here.”
“How [Popovici] saw it boggles my mind,” he said. “It wasn’t very big. I wear a jacket, I wear a radio on the back of my jacket that hooks on, so the cords are there…. Like, she’s a hero.”