COVENTRY University academic Stephen Dawkins got to meet the 9/11 firefighter whose life he saved after providing bone marrow to him for a transplant.
Sal Parisi, 68, responded on the front line to the terror attacks on 9/11, during which 343 of his Fire Department of New York (FDNY) colleagues were killed.
He was diagnosed with Leukaemia nine years after retirement and believes his condition was linked to the exposure to the devastation caused by the World Trade Center attacks.
Sal said: “You can’t compare that day to anything else, everything was pulverised, all you saw was cement, dust and steel.
“We were at the scene of the attacks until at least midnight that night.
“The biggest thing I can remember was how much my eyes were burning from the contaminated air, not thinking that 17 years later I would have cancer.”
A global search for a compatible bone marrow donor identified Stephen, who is Associate Head of School for Student Experience in Coventry University’s School of Media and Performing Arts, as an almost perfect match.
The transplant was a success thanks to Stephen’s donation and, earlier this month, the pair met up in person for the first time with the FDNY arranging a special ceremony to mark the occasion.
All six of Sal’s grandchildren were born before his diagnosis and he said thanks to Stephen’s donation he has got to see them grow up.
Stephen said the experience was amazing and felt he and Sal had got on like old friends.
“It didn’t hit home that giving my bone marrow would save someone’s life until I met Sal in person.
“I would urge anybody who can to donate blood and donate bone marrow.
“Donating bone marrow is a relatively simple process, it was just two days of my life, but it was for the rest of somebody else’s life.”
Anyone in the UK wanting to join the Bone Marrow Register can visit bbmr.co.uk/joining-the-register/ to sign up.