Firefighter, September 11 hero searching for life-saving donor match

By Joe Vitale Staten Island Advance

FF Jimmy Martinez

Jimmy Martinez, who is battling multiple myeloma, is looking for bone marrow match. On Sunday at Our Lady Queen of Peace, Islanders can register with just a cheek swab. (Photo Courtesy of the Martinez family)

Firefighters save lives every day. How often do we have the opportunity to save theirs?

On Sunday, we will all get that chance.

Supporters of Jimmy Martinez of Eltingville — a 24-year veteran of the FDNY who is in need of a life-saving stem cell transplant — will be hosting a bone marrow donor drive at Our Lady Queen of Peace R.C. Church, New Dorp.

The event runs from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the church’s Hopkins Hall. All that’s needed is a cheek swab.

“My father’s diagnosis is a direct result of his prolonged exposure on 9/11 under Ground Zero.”

Martinez, a 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy first responder, was diagnosed with Multiple myeloma nearly a year ago.

Eileen Martinez, Martinez’s daughter, has played a major role in organizing the drive, in conjunction with Delete Blood Cancer, and other efforts to help her father find his donor match.

“My father’s diagnosis is a direct result of his prolonged exposure on 9/11 under Ground Zero,” Ms. Martinez said. “He told me recently that he would do it all again — and that doesn’t surprise me.”

“That’s just how he is: Selfless and generous,” she added.

He has undergone five rounds of chemotherapy, but to no avail.

Now, his life depends on finding a marrow donor match.

By registering for the national bone marrow registry on Sunday, individuals can determine if they are a potential match for Martinez. With thousands of types, occurring in endless combinations, finding a match is akin to hitting the lotto.

But every new donor raises the odds of having a winning ticket.

The entire registration process takes less than five minutes.

If a match is identified, the donor is contacted and given two options about how to donate, including peripheral blood stem cell donation (which takes about 4-8 hours over 1-2 days) and marrow donation (which takes about 1-2 hours).

Both are painless with few side effects.

Martinez’s friends and family are optimistic about the upcoming event. They know every new registrant increases his odds of finding a match.

They are mindful, though, that even if a match is not found for Martinez, it might be found for someone else in need of a transplant.

“This drive isn’t just for my hero,” Ms. Martinez, whose birthday falls on the day of the drive, said. “It’s for the thousands of people suffering from bone marrow disease who are waiting for their life-saving match.”

If you can’t make the drive but would like to find out more information, visit

If Martinez were to find his match, he would not be the first Islander to find a marrow donor match in recent memory.

Last year, the Advance covered a bone-marrow drive for Martinez as well as Owen Hogan, a young boy battling aplastic anemia, a rare condition that slows production of new blood cells.

Luckily, Hogan’s chances of overcoming the illness skyrocketed when he was matched with a registrant in the system.

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