FIRE COMMISSIONER SALVATORE J. CASSANO AND NEW YORK BLOOD CENTER HONOR FDNY BONE MARROW DONORS
FDNY Firefighter Who Donated Bone Marrow Met Recipient and Her Family 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 nine FDNY bone marrow donors to the Honor Roll of Life at the ninth annual induction ceremony at FDNY Headquarters.
During the ceremony, Firefighter Douglas Chiz, 29, of Ladder 136 in Queens met the recipient of his life-saving bone marrow, Angela Rugh, 23, from Jeanette, Pennsylvania. In addition, two FDNY Firefighters - Scott Annicelli, also of Ladder 136 in Queens and Cody Baker of Ladder 59 in the Bronx - were reunited with the recipients of their bone marrow donations - Merritt Navazio, 30, of Fredericksburg, Maryland and Rick Smalley, 56, of Weatherford, Texas respectively
"The 149 FDNY members on our Honor Roll of Life who have selflessly made donations of stem cells and bone marrow epitomize the life-saving dedication of every member of this Department," said Commissioner Cassano. "Each of these beautiful stories is a life saved and a lasting friendship created thanks to the incredible partnership between the FDNY, the New York Blood Center and the Be The Match Registry."
"Most recipients of bone marrow never get the chance to meet their donors. The fact that 149 FDNY members have given without question - and have done so knowing they will likely never meet the person they have saved - makes these gifts all the more meaningful," said Christopher Hillyer, M.D. Each one of these donors has gone above and beyond the call of duty, and all deserve our thanks".
"This morning we met three individuals who were cured of leukemia and lymphoma because someone from the FDNY stepped up and donated marrow, said Howard Milstein. "These reunions are always an emotional reminder of why it is vital that we join the bone marrow registry."
More About Firefighter Chiz and Recipient Rugh
- Angela Rugh grew up in the small town of Jeannette, PA. At the age of 16, she was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of Hodgkin's lymphoma. Angela underwent chemotherapy, radiation treatments and a self-transplant of bone marrow. In 2008, she received the bone marrow transplant from Firefighter Chiz that would save her life. She was able to recover in time to walk with her classmates at graduation. In 2011, she once again needed a transplant from Firefighter Chiz. Today, Angela is a Psychology major at the University of Pittsburgh and finds great pleasure in charity work, and art, having illustrated a children's book to be published later this year. She was joined at the ceremony by her mother, Audra Rugh.
- Firefighter Douglas Chiz joined the FDNY March, 2007. He, along with every member of his Probationary Firefighter class joined the National Bone Marrow Registry before graduating from the FDNY Fire Academy. Only a few months later, Firefighter Chiz learned he was a possible match for a 17-year-old girl in need of a bone marrow transplant. Acting on the opportunity to save a life, Firefighter Chiz agreed to whatever donation would be needed to save this young girl. On February 14, 2008, Firefighter Chiz donated bone marrow at North Shore Manhasset Hospital. A second donation was made in January, 2011.
More About Firefighter Annicelli and Recipient Navazio
- Merritt Navazio was diagnosed with leukemia in the summer of 2001 at the age of 18, shortly after graduating high school. Due to a rare gene mutation, Merritt did not have a perfect donor match available in his family. In March, 2002, Merritt received the life-saving transplant from Firefighter Annicelli.
- Firefighter Scott Annicelli joined the FDNY in February, 1999 and while a Probationary Firefighter at the FDNY Fire Academy, he joined the bone marrow registry. When notified that he matched an 18 year-old young man, Firefighter Annicelli agreed immediately to donate his bone marrow. Both men have grown close over the last eleven years, and when Merritt married his wife, Anna, Firefighter Annicelli stood by his side as a groomsman.
More About Firefighter Baker and Recipient Smalley
- Rick Smalley was diagnosed with leukemia in October, 2009. Because of his age, Rick was given a very small chance of survival unless a bone marrow donor could be found. In February, 2010, a match was found in Firefighter Cody Baker. In April, 2010, Rick received the transplant from Firefighter Baker and has been cancer free ever since. This year, he and his wife, Cathy, will celebrate their 39th wedding anniversary.
- Firefighter Cody Baker joined the FDNY in August, 2007, after serving 6 years in the United States Marine Corps, including a tour of duty in Fallujah, Iraq in 2006. Firefighter Baker joined the bone marrow registry as a Probationary Firefighter at the FDNY Fire Academy and immediately agreed to donate marrow when he received the call. Cody's father was the same age as Rick when he passed away and Cody is proud that he was able to provide a match so that someone else's family would not have to experience losing a father to cancer.
More About the FDNY / NYBC Partnership
Members of the FDNY make up New York Blood Center's single largest group of bone marrow and stem cell donors. To date a total of 149 FDNY members have given these gifts to patients - in some cases more than once - accounting for 10 percent of all donors from New York Blood Center. 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 Randall's Island.
About New York Blood Center: New York Blood Center (NYBC) is one of the nation's largest non-profit, community-based blood centers. NYBC has been providing blood, transfusion products and services to hospitals since 1964. NYBC serves more than 20 million people in New York City, Long Island, the Hudson Valley, New Jersey, and parts of Connecticut and Pennsylvania. NYBC is also home to the Lindsley F. Kimball Research Institute and the National Cord Blood Program at the Howard P. Milstein National Cord Blood Center, the world's largest public cord blood bank. NYBC provides medical services and programs (Clinical, Transfusion, and Hemophilia Services) through our medical professionals along with consultative services in transfusion medicine. Please visit us on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/newyorkbloodcenter. Follow us on Twitter: @NYBloodCenter. For a list of NYBC blood drives and donor center locations in NY and NJ, please visit www.nybloodcenter.org and click on the "Locate a Blood Drive" link or call 1-800-933-2566.
About Be The Match:
Be The Match is a movement that engages a growing community of people inspired to help patients who need a marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant from an unrelated donor. The National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), a leader in the field of marrow and cord blood transplantation, created Be The Match to provide opportunities for the public to become involved in saving the lives of people with leukemia, lymphoma and other life-threatening diseases. Volunteers can join the Be The Match Registry - the world's largest and most diverse listing of potential marrow donors and donated cord blood units - as well as contribute financially to Be The Match Foundation® or give their time. For more information, visit BeTheMatch.org or call 1 (800) MARROW-2.
Press Contact: Francis X. Gribbon & Frank Dwyer, (FDNY) (718) 999-2056