FDNY Firefighters Give the Gift of Life with Bone Marrow Donation

7 Online - February 01, 2019

by Tim Fleischer

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN, New York (WABC) -- They came face-to-face for the first time.

Jeff Faller was able to meet firefighter Robert Paolillo and thank him for giving him a second chance at life.

It was the same for Joseph Stike, meeting and thanking retired Lieutenant Kieran Brosnan.

Both Faller and Stike are bone marrow recipients. Both firefighters, Paolillo and Brosnan, are more-than-willing donors.

"Just blown away," said Jeff, a father of three from Waco, Texas. "Just so grateful for Bobby. So grateful for what he has done, and now, knowing his back story."

"I am super happy to actually meet the man who saved my life," said Joseph, from York, Pennsylvania. "And to meet his family. It's amazing. It's joy. It's a lot."

At a special ceremony at FDNY Headquarters in Downtown Brooklyn Thursday, 13 more firefighters who have donated bone marrow - some two and three times - were added to the FDNY "Honor Roll of Life."

"It's how we help raise awareness about bone marrow donations and how we can hope to inspire others to join the registry," said Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro.

Firefighters are the largest single group of bone marrow and stem cell donors to the New York Blood Center and the Be The Match registry. 205 have already donated.

"We're all there to try and save lives," said Dr. Christopher Hillyer, President and CEO of the New York Blood Center.

Another 8,000 current and retired firefighters stand ready to donate. Robert Paolillo and Kieran Brosnan are just the latest to step forward. "The fact that he has kids and a family depending on him, and he was having a rough time, and I was able to help change that - it's a great feeling," said Paolillo.

"I haven't processed it yet. It's a little overwhelming, but I'm glad to have finally met Joe and have made a difference in his life," said Brosnan.

A big difference indeed, one that has now offered two more people a second chance at life.