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UW Biology alumna '19 Nadia Popovici in the news for identifying cancerous mole on Vancouver Canucks Asst. Equipment Manager

Tuesday, January 11, 2022 - 11:30

UW Biology alumna '19, Nadia Popovici, was recently featured in the news for alerting Vancouver Canucks equipment manager Brian "Red" Hamilton to a cancerous mole during a Seattle Kraken game.

Nadia Popovici hadn’t woken up yet when what she had done to save a life was going viral on hockey Twitter.

A 2019 University of Washington graduate about to go to medical school, she worked at a crisis hotline overnight on New Year’s Eve. It was a shock to find out upon waking she had become a story.

“I woke up with my mom’s phone call and she was like, ‘Nadia, you have no idea what’s going on,'” she said. “She sent me the statement the (Canucks) put out, and it said they were looking for me. There was a lot of screaming. I couldn’t believe it.”

Popovici, who goes to Kraken games with her stepfather’s season tickets, was the subject of a search from Canucks assistant equipment manager Brian “Red” Hamilton, who said Saturday morning via a Twitter statement from the team Popovici had saved his life.

When the Canucks were at Climate Pledge Arena on Oct. 23, the Kraken’s home opener, Popovici — sitting behind the Canucks bench — typed a message out on her phone, knocked on the plexiglass and got Hamilton’s attention. “The mole on the back of your neck is cancer,” the message read.

Within two hours of the Twitter statement, she had been identified via a Kraken fan Facebook group. She just didn’t know it yet.

As soon as she woke up into 2022 for the first time, though, it was apparent her start to the year was already pretty meaningful.

“He kind of glanced at my phone and walked away and I thought maybe he’d already seen it,” she said. “Maybe he’d already gotten it checked out by a doctor, it’s probably fine. Then for this to happen months later, to hear he had possibly five years before showing debilitating symptoms. I mean, that’s, it’s just so incredible that I’ve had the opportunity to reach him at that moment.”

It turned out the mole was type-2 malignant melanoma, which means it hadn’t penetrated the skin yet. It’s a form of skin cancer that develops pigment-producing cells known as melanocytes.

Popovici said in her time volunteering at hospitals she’s been “surrounded with a lot of melanomas,” so when she saw it on his neck with a large diameter, discolored, raised and with an “irregular border” it raised some red flags in her mind.

“She extended my life,” said Hamilton in a Zoom press conference on Saturday afternoon. “I’ve got a wonderful family, I’ve got a wonderful daughter and I just think like, she extended my life. She didn’t take me out of a burning car like the big stories but she took me out of a slow fire, and then words out of the doctor’s mouth where if I ignored that for four to five years, I wouldn’t be here.

Read the full story in The Seattle Times