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Stories From Main Street: Yonkers Firefighter Saves Life Through Stem Cell Donation

YONKERS, NY (WCBS 880) - Yonkers firefighter Tim Sullivan saved a life without running into a burning building.

"I was lucky enough to be chosen to be a bone marrow donor for somebody that was in need," he told WCBS 880 reporter Sean Adams.

He doesn't want to be called a hero; he says he was just doing his duty as a human being.

Sullivan signed up for the registry after his mother passed away from cancer 12 years ago.

"I always said if there was a way I could help anybody in any form, after watching her go through it, I would love to have that chance and opportunity," he said.

WCBS 880's Sean Adams With The Story


Sullivan got that chance when his phone rang and it was the call he'd been waiting for. He found out he came up as a possible match.

As the time to donate approached, he said, "They asked me repeatedly, 'Are you sure you want to do this? Are you sure you want to do this?' and I told them, 'Listen, you don't have to keep asking me. I know I'm going to do this.' They're like, 'You don't understand. Fifty percent of the people back out.'"

Stories from Main Street
Stories from Main Street - Photo: Evan Bindelglass / WCBS 880

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Not firefighters though. Sullivan donated his stem cells.

"The nurse said to me, 'You're doing a really good thing here.' I was like, 'Oh, well, that's nice. Thank you. I appreciate it.' She goes, 'No. You don't understand. If this doesn't happen, if this doesn't work, he dies. You are his last-ditch effort.'," said Sullivan.

Well, it did work.

"Whether you need it or someone in your family needs it, if you can help somebody out it's a big thing. It's a big world. There's lots of different people that need it. I know there's a woman in Mount Vernon right now who's very sick."

So this week, the Yonkers Fire Department is answering the call. In conjunction with the Yonkers Police Department, a blood drive and bone marrow drive will be held between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on June 29 at 470 Nepperhan Avenue.

"The more the merrier," Sullivan said. "The more people we can help, the better. If out of this drive, one person is helped, then that's one person that wouldn't have been helped without it before."

Sullivan stresses that donating is a large committment.

"Little Jimmy in your neighborhood might be sick with leukemia and you say 'Oh, let's try and help out and we'll get it.' But they don't realize that once you're on the registry, you're on the registry for everybody, not just one person in particular," he said.

Over the years, 134 members of the FDNY have donated bone marrow or stem cells.

"It's almost a selfish feeling. You feel really good about yourself and then you're like, 'Wait. It's really not about me. It's about this person.' This person's the one you really should be happy for," he said.

If you're on the fence about donating, just listen to firefighter Sullivan: "If you can save somebody's life, you should save somebody's life. We're all humans, one way or the other. You don't have to run into a burning building to save somebody's life. You can just go in and get stuck with a needle and you're good to go."

For details on the blood and bone marrow drive, click HERE.


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