It took just one day for 2022 to offer up the most heartwarming story of the year.
The story started in November of 2021 at the Seattle Kraken’s home opener. The Vancouver Canucks were in town and the team’s assistant equipment manager Brian “Red” Hamilton was in his usual spot behind the bench, ready to deal with any equipment issues that might crop up during the game. He had no idea that night was going to be life-changing.
Behind Red, in the first row of seats behind the Canucks bench, sat Nadia Popovici, a newly-minted Kraken fan, eager to cheer on the new team in their first game in Seattle. Somehow, amidst all the excitement of the game, Popovici spotted a suspicious-looking mole on the back of Red’s neck.
Popovici is on the verge of going to medical school and had spent significant time volunteering in hospitals, so she knew the signs of melanoma when she saw them: the mole had a large diameter, discoloration, was raised, and had an irregular border.
After debating how to tell Red, she wrote a message on the Notes app on her phone, enlarged the font, highlighted key words like “cancer,” “doctor,” and “mole” and, when the opportunity came to get Red’s attention, she rapped on the glass, held her phone up, and hoped that he got the message.
He did. Red got the mole checked by a doctor, who informed him it was a type-2 malignant melanoma, which means it had yet to penetrate the skin and could be safely removed with no further issues. If it hadn’t been checked, however, it could have become extremely dangerous.
“She extended my life,” said Red. “The words out of the doctor’s mouth were if I ignored that for four to five years, I wouldn’t be here.”
You probably know the story already. It went viral on January 1 when the Canucks were back in Seattle to face the Kraken. Red wanted to track down the fan that had saved his life but when private inquiries went nowhere, he put out a public letter via the Canucks’ social media and friends of Popovici were able to connect the two of them.
With all the negative and dreary news out there, this is exactly the kind of story we need right now, which is why it’s very appropriate that the story reached Late Night with Seth Meyers in his segment, “The Kind of Story We Need Right Now.”
Meyers, broadcasting from home after testing positive for COVID-19, tells the story in his typically charming and humorous way.
“It’s nearly impossible to get good medical care in America and Nadia’s at a hockey game just giving it away for free,” he quips.
Of course, charging for medical care before you’ve gone to medical school is probably a crime, but that just makes the story even better.
“She hasn’t even started med school yet, do you know how cocky she’s going to be on her first day?” says Meyers. “What did everyone do this summer…I diagnosed a melanoma through plexiglass with a beer in one hand.”
Sure, he gets some of the details slightly askew — Red is not a coach, for example, and Popovici was originally a Canucks fan before the Kraken came into existence, so it’s not likely she’d be as adversarial towards the Canucks as a Boston Red Sox fan to the New York Yankees — but he still gets plenty right and lands plenty of zingers, often at the NHL’s expense.
“The Seattle Kraken are a real hockey team and not a fake one from a video game that didn’t pay a licensing fee to the NHL,” he says at one point.
After noting the $10,000 contribution from the Kraken and Canucks to Popovici’s medical school tuition, he jokes, “10 grand is, like, $5 million in hockey dollars.”
He’s not wrong.
But Meyers’ best line comes after noting that Popovici missed the viral tweet on January 1 because she was napping after a shift at a suicide hotline:
“If we had more people like Nadia, we’d have more people.”