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Local Lifesaver

Hicksville native and firefighter Doug Chiz knows what it takes to save a life – only in this case, he wasn’t battling a raging inferno.

Chiz was coming to the aid of teenager Angela Rugh, who was battling cancer.

In 2007, Chiz, a 2001 Hicksville High School grad, added his name to the National Bone Marrow Registry as he was finishing his training at the FDNY Probationary Firefighter Academy. All 236 of Chiz’s fellow firefighters added their names to the list, which required only a simple cheek swab, and Chiz was told the odds of being a possible match were slim.

Less than six months later, Chiz got the call. Rugh, of Jeanette, Penn., was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 16 and turned out to be Chiz’s bone marrow match.

“I was asked if I would be willing to donate bone marrow or stem cells and the choice of the two dependent on the recipient’s needs. There was only one answer, the answer that coincides with the core values of the FDNY – this was an opportunity to save a life,” said Chiz.

On Feb. 14, 2008, Chiz psyched himself up to give the gift of life via bone marrow collection, a painful process in which doctors poked at Chiz’s lower back nearly 100 times.

“The day of and the weeks following the collection procedure were definitely uncomfortable, but my only thought at the time was that my pain paled in comparison to what this brave girl was going through,” Chiz, a member of FDNY Ladder 136, explained.

The decision to donate bone marrow – the soft, spongy substance that fills bone cavity where blood is produced – was an easy one for Chiz.

“I was being given a once in a lifetime chance to help another person, or so I thought,” said Chiz, who received another phone call in 2010 to donate.

This time around, doctors left Chiz’s bone marrow alone but harvested his stem cells. The recipient, though, remained unchanged: Angela Rugh.

Rugh, a 23-year-old psychology major currently studying at the University of Pittsburgh, and Chiz recently met at FDNY Headquarters in Brooklyn, where donor and recipient embraced as one.

“I would do it all again if given the chance,” Chiz said.