FIRE COMMISSIONER SALVATORE J. CASSANO AND NEW YORK BLOOD CENTER HONOR FIREFIGHTER BONE MARROW DONORS
FDNY Firefighters Who Donated Bone Marrow Met Recipients for the First Time
Fire Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano, Christopher D. Hillyer, M.D., President and CEO of New York Blood Center (NYBC) and Howard P. Milstein, Chairman of NYBC’s Board of Trustees, joined today to add the names of the 2009 FDNY bone marrow donors to the “Honor Roll of Life” at the sixth annual induction ceremony at FDNY Headquarters.
During the ceremony, Firefighter Alex Lee, 27 years old, of Engine 69 in Manhattan and retired Firefighter William (Billy) Pollack, 47 years old, of Engine 292 in Queens met the recipients of their bone marrow stem cell donations. Bone marrow recipients Gary Williams, 55 years old, from Brandon, Mississippi; and Patricia Naasz, 50 years old, of Stockton, California; were introduced for the first time to the firefighters that saved their lives.
“Every firefighter joins this Department because they seek a career where they can help others and saving a life is the highlight of any firefighter’s career,” said Commissioner Cassano. “The partnership between the FDNY and the NYBC’s bone marrow donor registry affords our members the opportunity to save those lives far away from the fire ground.”
“I thank Fire Commissioner Cassano and the rest of ‘New York’s Bravest’ for their bravery on the job, and for their continued support of New York Blood Center’s bone marrow program,” said Dr. Hillyer. “Today we pay tribute and thanks to these selfless acts of giving which empower NYBC to help save lives each and every day.”
In May of 2007, Firefighter Lee donated bone marrow and stem cells to Gary Williams, a father of two sons and a husband of 35 years. Williams was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML), a fast growing cancer of the blood and bone marrow, in December 2006. Following induction chemotherapy and weeks in intensive care, Williams received the life saving transplant he needed. After a relapse in May 2008, Williams received the rest of Firefighter Lee’s donated cells, which had been frozen, and today is living the life he had before he was diagnosed. He was accompanied at the ceremony by his son, Allen, a former U.S. Marine.
Firefighter Lee is a lifelong Queens resident who joined the FDNY in May 2005 and became a member of the “Be The Match” registry in August of that year while at the FDNY Training Academy at Randalls Island. Firefighter Lee attended the ceremony with his girlfriend Kristin, and his parents, James and Tamara.
Firefighter Pollack donated stem cells to Patricia Naasz on August 23, 2003. Naasz, a mother of two and a wife of 24 years at the time she was diagnosed with AML, was given very little chance of survival. The day after Naasz’s 25th wedding anniversary, she and her husband flew to Seattle for the life saving transplant. Since the successful operation, Patricia Naasz and her husband have celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary, watched their daughter become a teacher, and seen the birth of their first grandson, Evan. “If it weren’t for Billy Pollack, I would not have seen any of these milestones,” said Naasz. “I’ve never had a brother, but now I do – Billy. Thank you so much to Billy and all of the hero firefighters.”
Firefighter Pollack joined the “Be The Match” registry on March 12, 1990. In 1991, initial tests showed that Pollack matched a patient in need. Further tests revealed he was not fully compatible. Twelve years later Firefighter Pollack had a second chance to donate to a different patient, Patti Naasz. Firefighter Pollack retired from the FDNY in 2005 and attended today’s ceremony with his wife Susan and his three-year-old daughter, Sage.
In 2009, New York Blood Center was proud to celebrate more than 1,000 total life-saving stem cell transplants from members of its registry. Of the more than 1,000 gifts that were made to patients, nearly 13 percent was comprised of FDNY donors. During the ceremony, the names of 10 firefighters were added to the honor roll, bringing the total number of firefighter donors since the program began to 126.
FDNY encourages its members to donate blood and other blood products, such as platelets, bone marrow and stem cells. Its bone-marrow-donation partnership with NYBC began in 1990. Over the past twenty years, the FDNY has become the single largest group on NYBC’s bone marrow registry with more than 8,000 FDNY members on the donor list. Probationary firefighters are encouraged to sign up for the bone marrow registry during their training at the Fire Academy on Randalls Island. In the past six years, nearly every probationary firefighter has participated in the program.
About the New York Blood Center
The NYBC, one of the nation's largest non-profit, community-based blood centers, has been providing blood, transfusion products and services to patients in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut hospitals since 1964. NYBC is also home to the Lindsley F. Kimball Research Institute, the National Cord Blood Program at the Milstein National Cord Blood Center, the world's first and largest public cord blood bank. NYBC provides medical services and programs (Clinical, Transfusion and Hemophilia Services) through our medical professionals and transfusion medicine physicians. For a list of NYBC locations in NY and NJ, please visit www.nybloodcenter.org and click on the “Locate a Blood Drive” link or call 1-800-933-BLOOD (2566).
About the National Marrow Donor Program
The National Marrow Donor Program helps people who need a life-saving marrow or blood cell transplant. They connect patients, doctors, donors and researchers to resources they need to help more people live longer, healthier lives. To achieve their mission, program organizers:
- Search our Registry -- the largest listing of volunteer donors and cord blood units in the world;
- Support patients and their doctors throughout the transplant process;
- Match patients with the best donor or cord blood unit using innovative science and technology.
Press Contact: Francis X. Gribbon & Frank Dwyer, (FDNY) (718) 999-2056