FDNY probies give blood, join organ donor program to save lives before graduating from academy
Probationary firefighters Shannon Maloney (center) and Charles Denman (left bottom corner) donate blood inside the FDNY Training Division located at 1 Berry Place in Randall’s Island on Tuesday.
They’re a week away from becoming firefighters and they’re already saving lives.
The 304 probationary firefighters preparing to graduate from the FDNY Fire Academy next week continued a special tradition on Tuesday by donating blood and signing up to be bone marrow and organ donors.
The probies lined up at the academy on Randalls Island to give DNA swabs to find out if they’re a genetic match to anyone needing bone marrow.
FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro also asked the young smoke-eaters to join Live On NY, where they agree to have their organs and tissues donated upon their deaths.
“There are far simpler ways you can save the life of another that don’t require training or hard work,” Nigro told the soon-to-be firefighters. “They require only the integrity and commitment you have already demonstrated.”
Firefighter Michael Hargaden, who has been putting out blazes in the Bronx for more than 12 years, knows firsthand how important it is to be an organ donor.
His wife of 11 years, Rosemary, is alive today thanks to one, he told the new class of firefighters.
Probationary firefighters participated in a special tradition where each member of the new FDNY class about to graduate signs up to be an organ donor and to give blood and get DNA tested to see if they can be a match for someone needing a bone marrow transplant.
Born with cystic fibrosis, her life was saved when she received a new pair of lungs, he said.
“As she got older, her lung function got worse,” Hargaden said, wiping away tears as he spoke in front of the class. “Going for a walk became a chore. Sometimes getting out of bed wasn’t an option.”
When his wife’s lung function fell to just 30%, she desperately needed a double lung transplant.
But New York State has the fewest organ donors in the country, Hargaden said.
The situation was so dire that Hargaden had to move his wife and daughter to North Carolina to get an organ donation, which came in 2014.
“I have never seen so many tubes and hoses coming out of somebody in my life and I don’t want to see it again,” Hargaden said. “But they had her out of bed and walking the same day of her surgery.”
Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro speaks at the FDNY special tradition event on Tuesday.
“To watch Rosemary take the first deep breath of her life is something very special . . . almost like seeing your daughter being born again,” he said, encouraging all the probies to sign up.
It was not immediately clear how many did so, but historically nearly all do, officials said.
Over the past 30 years, 25,000 firefighters have donated blood with the New York Blood Center, Nigro said.
“Many firefighters owe their lives to the blood center,” he told the class.
The FDNY is also the largest group of bone marrow donors, which FDNY Chief of Department James Leonard sees as a no-brainer.
“It’s a way to give back,” Leonard told the class. “And we always give back.”
Those wishing to join the Live On NY program can do so by visiting www.liveonny.org.