"I never thought it would take us seven-and-half years to meet, but sometimes it's even more beautiful when you can wait."

By Meghan Overdeep
November 12, 2019
runDisney

When Boyd Dunleavey was diagnosed with acute myeloid Leukemia in 2011, doctors gave him a 10% chance of surviving more than a few months without a stem cell transplant from a donor outside of his family.

After a grueling year of treatments and a recurrence, doctors finally identified as a suitable stem cell donor. His match was a man named Nathan Barnes, a gunners' mate in the US Navy who was stationed in Japan at the time. It took a while, but in May 2012, Dunleavey finally received Barnes' life-saving gift.

"When we found out it was a gentleman named Nathan, it was incredible," Dunleavey, a father of three, told Disney Parks Blog. "Our middle son's name is Nathan, and it means ‘Gift of God.'"

After the transplant, Dunleavey began running as part of his recovery, and it quickly became a passion. Since then, he's run 21 half marathons and completed the Boston Marathon three times. But last week's Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon in Orlando, Florida, was especially meaningful for the 45-year-old Canadian, because the man who saved his life was waiting for him at the finish line with his medal.

Dunleavey and Barnes found each other on Facebook. And nearly a decade later, with Barnes now stationed in Jacksonville, the men arranged to meet at Disney World for the race.

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"I never thought it would take us seven-and-half years to meet, but sometimes it's even more beautiful when you can wait,'' Dunleavey told the Orlando Sentinel.

It was an emotional moment (below) for both men.

"Knowing that you saved somebody's life—that, through your actions, somebody is alive today—it doesn't feel real, knowing you had a part in that,'' Barnes, 31, told the Sentinel. "Meeting him for the first time has been a really emotional experience.''

"I had no idea you could actually feel this good about something."

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