FIRE COMMISSIONER SALVATORE J. CASSANO AND NEW YORK BLOOD CENTER HONOR FDNY BONE MARROW DONORS
On 10th Anniversary of "Honor Roll of Life," FDNY Firefighter Who Donated Bone Marrow Met Recipient and His 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 thirteen FDNY bone marrow donors to the Honor Roll of Life at the 10th annual induction ceremony at FDNY Headquarters.
During the ceremony, Firefighter Christopher Howard, 31, of Engine 255 in Brooklyn met the recipient of his life-saving bone marrow, John Ciempa, 66, from Lakeland, Florida. In addition, another FDNY Firefighter – Billy Zask Jr., of Squad 288 in Queens, was reunited with the recipient of his bone marrow donations – Alex Maldonado, 9, of Puerto Rico. Alex was just two when he received his bone marrow transplant.
“The 162 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 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 162 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 Dr. Hillyer. “Each one of these donors has gone above and beyond the call of duty, and all deserve our thanks”.
“The FDNY and NYBC’s combined efforts make a tremendous impact in our community,” said Mr. Milstein. “As we recognize the 10th anniversary of our “Honor Roll of Life” program, the success of the FDNY’s bone marrow registry efforts, while gratifying, should not be surprising. Our brave firefighters never fail to answer the call. Saving lives is in their blood.”
More About Firefighter Howard and Recipient Ciempa
- John Ciempa was born and raised in Manchester, NH, where he and his wife Debra raised their twins J.J. and Katy. After retiring in 2004, he and his wife moved to Lakeland, FL, to escape the harsh New England winters. In 2010, John was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), a rare bone marrow disorder in which the bone marrow does not produce enough healthy blood cells. After several months of chemotherapy, John was told that without a bone marrow match he would only have three to six months to live. In May of 2012, John received a bone marrow transplant from Firefighter Christopher Howard. Today John is healthy and thanks Christopher for the “gift of life.”
- Christopher Howard joined the FDNY in 2005. His father, George Howard, served as a Port Authority Police Officer for 17 years before losing his life responding to the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001. George Howard was a good friend of Terry Farrell, one of the earliest FDNY bone marrow donors who also died on September 11th and an inspiration to Firefighter Howard. Firefighter Howard was identified as a match in February 2012 and donated stem cells in May of 2012 at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. When asked, Firefighter Howard said, “It is an incredible rewarding day knowing that I was going to be able to help someone in need. Being a firefighter, that is what we live for, to help people in need.”
More About Firefighter Zask, Jr. and Recipient Maldonado
- Alex Maldonado from Puerto Rico was diagnosed with Osteopetrosis Renal Tubular Acidosis, a life-threatening condition, when he was two. His parents were told that he needed a bone marrow transplant. The search for a match lasted 6 months and just three days before his third birthday Alex received a bone marrow transplant. Alex met Firefighter Zask, Jr. in 2008 and today he is a happy and healthy 9-year-old.
- Firefighter Bill Zask, Jr. joined the FDNY as an EMT in 2004 and was promoted to the rank of firefighter in 2006. Four months after joining the marrow registry in 2006 he learned that he was a match for Alex Maldonado. The two met in 2008 at the 4th annual Honor Roll of Life and are meeting again to remind the public of the importance of joining the bone marrow registry.
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 162 FDNY members have given these gifts to patients – in some cases more than once – accounting for more than 10 percent of all donors from New York Blood Center. Its bone-marrow-donation partnership with NYBC began in 1990. Over the past 20 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. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Honor Roll of Life. In addition to participating in bone marrow donation, FDNY members run blood drives throughout the community. Last year over 2,000 blood donations were made at FDNY blood drives.
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®
For people with life-threatening blood cancers—like leukemia and lymphoma—or other diseases, a cure exists. Be The Match connects patients with their donor match for a life-saving marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant. People can contribute to the cure as a member of the Be The Match Registry®, financial contributor or volunteer. Be The Match provides patients and their families one-on-one support, education, and guidance before, during and after transplant.
Be The Match is operated by the National Marrow Donor Program® (NMDP), a nonprofit organization that matches patients with donors, educates health care professionals and conducts research so more lives can be saved. To learn more about the cure, visit BeTheMatch.org or call 1 (800) MARROW-2.
Press Contact: Francis X. Gribbon & Frank Dwyer, (FDNY) (718) 999-2056