Last week Ashleigh O'Dea and Bill Buchanan were strangers, but on Monday they were brought together by a connection that runs deep in their veins.
The 17-year-old Keira High School captain and 69-year-old Unanderra grandfather's paths crossed when Mr Buchanan's wife Cherilyne read a story in the Mercury about a blood drive Ashleigh had organised in place of her grade's traditional school muck-up day.
"I burst into tears when I saw what these kids were doing because they are 17, which is my grandkids' age, and 17 years ago I didn't think we would still have Bill here," Mrs Buchanan said.
Mr Buchanan was diagnosed with myelodysplasia, a form of leukaemia, in 1996 and was told he only had 12 months to live.
But thanks to the blood transfusions he receives every fortnight at Wollongong Hospital, he has lived to see his grandchildren grow up.
"If I do not have blood, within six weeks I die, so every two weeks I go to hospital and get three bags of blood," Mr Buchanan said.
"I live because of the actions these students have taken, and I am not the only one, so I just wanted to tell them how grateful I am because I've never had the chance to see the faces of the people who help to keep me alive."
The Buchanans visited Keira High on Monday and were thrilled to find out Ashleigh and Mr Buchanan had the same blood type.
"So when I go to the hospital this week I could possibly be getting Ashleigh's blood," Mr Buchanan said.
Ashleigh said the meeting had brought new meaning to her classmates' actions.
"I always knew it was a good thing to donate, but meeting Bill and knowing that he's one of the people we helped has taken it to a whole new level," she said. "I'm more inspired than ever to encourage all my friends to give blood."