HPD saving lives through stem cell donations

September 19, 2011 5:27:21 PM PDT
Cancer patients who need a stem cell transplant often wait months or years for a match. Sometimes, it never happens. But Houston police officers have taken up the cause.

In just a couple years, Houston Police Department officers have saved more cancer patients than anyone thought possible.

Officer Bill Lacy wanted to save lives when he joined HPD, but he never expected it to be like this.

He is giving life-saving stem cells at the Methodist Hospital stem cell center for an eight-year-old boy with cancer.

"[It] just felt like it was the right thing to do, and also my dad died from leukemia," Lacy said. "How many people get the opportunity to do something like this?"

Lacy heard about the HPD Be A Match program at the police academy. It's a program organized with the Be the Match registry through the National Marrow Donor Program.

Sgt. Ronnie Mascheck's step-son Zack, a young coach at Clements High School, died of leukemia. He left behind a wife and three young children. Mascheck joined Sgt. Jeff Headley, who is a leukemia survivor, in asking police officers to help.

And they did.

"It doesn't surprise me at all. That's why they became a policeman in the first place," Headley said.

The test is a cheek swab that matches DNA with cancer patients waiting for a match. Organizers said 2,200 officers took the test. Five officers matched, and Headley's wife matched, too.

"So that makes a total of six matches already, which is relatively impossible, statistically, when you look at what it takes to be a match. So I'd say this is a God-blessed program," Headley said.

Once you match, you take a series of shots to build your counts. The donation is like giving blood.

"It's coming out this arm, going through the machine and back into my body through this arm," Lacy explained.

Lacy and his wife, Kimberly, have a son the same age as his recipient. They hope to meet him someday.

"We knew it was something he had to do. It's a blessing to be able to do it," Kimberly Lacy said.

And Mascheck, who wanted so much to save Zack, is now saving other lives with the help of his fellow officers.

"It's just an awesome feeling that we are making a difference with this program," he said.

For more information or to find out how you can get tested as a possible donor, go to www.bethematch.org.

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