PHOENIX — It was a day more than two years in the making; David Rees reunited with six of the blood donors who helped get him through his battle with leukemia.
On Thursday, Rees made a speech at an event for Vitalant, a nonprofit blood donation bank, at Streets of New York in central Phoenix.
Rees spoke about his experience getting diagnosed with leukemia and eventually finding out that his leukemia was in remission. All of that took place in the span of a year in 2017.
Rees spent the first 100 days in the hospital undergoing chemotherapy, blood transfusions, and treatment from when he was diagnosed.
Thursday happened to be the two-year anniversary of his remission and Vitalant had something special planned for him after his speech.
Hidden in the restaurant, disguised as everyday people, were six of the blood donors whose blood was used in the transfusions that helped save Rees' life.
Rees tearfully and gratefully hugged and thanked each donor.
"[I said] 'Thank you. Thank you. Thank you," said Rees. "I can't say thank you enough. I appreciate it. I'm here because of you. I'm alive. You made sure I was able to be here."
"I was shocked. I donate blood all the time and you never think... you're going to actually meet the person," said Luana Heid, a blood donor.
"It makes me really emotional to think like what he's been through, and the fact that it only took me two hours," said Sara Brewer, another donor.
Overall, 37 people's donated blood contributed to Rees' recovery, something former Arizona Coyotes player Shane Doan commemorated with a custom Coyotes jersey with Rees' name on the back, and the number 37.
"Knowing that these are my donors, in person who gave to me, keeping me alive, it was awesome," said Rees.