Death-defying stuntman

Stuntman and bone marrow recipient Nigel Harbach with his son Leo.
Stuntman and bone marrow recipient Nigel Harbach with his son Leo.

The 44-year-old was diagnosed with the rare blood disease myelodysplastic syndrome in 2001, yet kept it to himself until he could no longer hide it, becoming blood transfusion dependant in 2012.

Mr Harbach said he used to sneak off on his lunch break, receive his treatment and return to the set, worried he may not get employment if anyone noticed his illness.

‘I just think I kept it under wraps for so long because everyone has an opinion and I was worried that I might not get employed if someone thought having a blood disease would be a jail sentence,’ he said.

‘But it depends on where you are at. It’s a real mental thing; you don’t have to give in to the negatives and you can surprise yourself (with) what you can achieve.’

Mr Harbach, whose movie credits include The Great Gatsby, The Matrix Reloaded and Mission Impossible II, went on a chemotherapy trial with no success and in March last year had his first bone marrow transplant with a half-match from his sister.

‘There were no matches any- where in the world on the bone marrow registry and we had been searching for 12 years,’ he said.

‘The transplant was not successful and following that transplant I was in hospital four-days a week for six months, receiving up to seven bags of red cells and platelets per week.’

Mr Harbach moved back to Perth last year to be close to his family, after being told things were not looking good and he had a 15 per cent chance of survival.
 
‘I arrived at Royal Perth Hospital in November and we did another donor search and a close match popped up on the radar so we decided to go ahead with another transplant in March this year,’ he said.

 ‘The time I spent in hospital during my second bone marrow transplant was the hardest five weeks of my life, and I cannot thank the medical team enough for all their help.’

Mr Harbach wants to now share his story and raise the awareness of the bone marrow registry and giving blood ” the two things that saved his life.

‘Things now are looking positive, my blood is good and my energy is coming back,’ he said.

‘I have a two-year-old boy, Leo, who has given me strength through this whole process and my adoring wife Cecile who has supported me all along. I have had a lot of help from friends raising funds and helping us out and at the moment things couldn’t be sweeter.

‘I have my second chance of life and definitely a different person out of all this.

‘Cancer does not discriminate, it can happen to anyone and you have to live life to the fullest; my motto is to remember to seize the day.’

Mr Harbach flew to the Gold Coast last week to work on a movie with The Rock Dwayne Johnson in the upcoming 3-D action adventure film San Andreas.