Career lifesavers join registry to save patients from blood cancer
When career lifesavers get the chance to save even more lives, they step up to do their part. The City of Miami Department of Fire-Rescue has turned out in large numbers to join the Gift of Life Marrow Registry during drives held at a number of stations during May, 2018, with additional drives to be scheduled in future months.
After seeing a flyer about Gift of Life posted at Miami-Dade Community College, Captain Manuel Arango, Fire Department Safety Officer for the City of Miami Department of Fire-Rescue, reached out to the organization. After speaking with Gift of Life’s Community Engagement Coordinator Joe Baldelomar, drives were set up for two weeks in May to invite the firefighters to join the registry.
“I looked up Gift of Life and learned about your mission, and was impressed – there is important overlap with our concerns. We deal with so many sick children at Holtz Children’s Hospital in the Jackson Health System, many of them have cancer and some are waiting for transplants, that this is one more way we might help them,” said Captain Arango. “There are also effects of working in fire service that can result in cancer, and many firefighters come down with blood cancer as they get older, so this issue is of interest to us.”
With approximately 800 employees working in shifts at 15 stations, the drives were arranged to swab the firefighters during working hours. Some firefighters also have EMT or paramedic training. Founded as a fire department in 1898, rescue services were added in 1939, and it became the first department in the country to use two-way radios on all its trucks and among the first to implement CPR as a lifesaving technique. Today, the department covers 54 square miles of territory.
"We deal with so many sick children ... many of them have cancer and some are waiting for transplants, that this is one more way we might help them." —Captain Manuel Arango
Since there are three shifts at each station daily, Joe spent an entire day at a station to catch the EMTs during their shift changes. The announcement that “The Marrow Man is here!” went out over the loudspeaker several times each day for two weeks.
“The City of Miami Fire-Rescue Department is embedded in a history and tradition where the men and women in uniform have taken an oath to uphold the department’s mission – to save lives," said Captain Arango. "Our department has a longstanding commitment to serving as an advocate to help meet the medical needs of the general public. I believe that it’s important to develop and maintain community partnerships, so that collectively, we use our Emergency Medical First Responders as a major contributor in making a difference to transform their own lives as well as those around them.”
Swabbing firefighters during their working hours can be rather exciting. “A few times the alarm went off and the entire team would have to go on a call,” said Joe. “Sometimes they would ask me to wait for them to come back, but other times their work was going to last several hours, so I would go to one of the other stations.”
To date, 200 of the firefighters have joined the registry as volunteer donors.
“As a partner agency, we look forward to a new opportunity to share the wonderful benefits that Gift of Life Marrow Registry offers to our organization, including education, volunteer opportunities, and commitments to become a donor," said Captain Arango. "The City of Miami Department of Fire-Rescue is fully committed to raising public awareness about this cause, which will lead to a better quality of life and, our mission, to continue investing in the welfare of humanity here and abroad.”
After holding drives at every station, Captain Arango hopes to bring Gift of Life to other Miami-Dade agencies and to the many municipalities served by the department.
Gift of Life is honored to partner with the dedicated lifesavers of City of Miami Fire-Rescue. Thank you for your commitment to our mission to cure blood cancer.