Saving lives may be part of the daily routine for firefighters, but the actions beyond the call of duty often exemplify their true heroism. This is especially evident among firefighters when one of their own faces adversity. In 1994, when a Ventura County Fire Department captain’s young daughter became ill with leukemia, Ventura firefighters traveled to Childrens’ Hospital Los Angeles to donate blood platelets on her behalf. For firefighter Jeff Maurer, 44, what began as a gesture of support ended up becoming his own lifesaving act.
“I went to donate platelets, but it turned out that my platelet count was too low, so they turned me away,” Jeff explains.” Instead, he donated blood. He was surprised though, that after his donation, a nurse called him in to the hallway at Childrens’ Hospital telling him to contact his personal physician, to whom they would send Jeff’s lab report. Jeff had acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). “It was a complete shock,” says Jeff, who was in otherwise perfect health and had no symptoms of illness. “I was a runner, and completely fit.”
Jeff’s father, a physician in Thousand Oaks, California, referred him to City of Hope, where he knew Jeff would receive the best care. When it was determined that a bone marrow transplant (BMT) was his best treatment option, Jeff was fortunate to learn that his younger brother Greg was a perfect match. In December 1995, Jeff underwent a BMT. Five months later, he returned to his duties as an engineer for the Ventura County Fire Department.
Today, Jeff remains in excellent health and continues to enjoy his career. The other constant joy in his life is his daughter Rachael. “I was incredibly lucky,” says Jeff, “to have been diagnosed so early and even more fortunate to have my brother turn out to be a perfect match. I just want to encourage other people to go to their doctors regularly and have routine blood tests. If you are healthy, donate blood.” As a firefighter and a leukemia survivor, Jeff knows that saving a life can be as simple as donating blood.