Bone Marrow Donor and Recipient Meet for the First Time

(From left to right) Dr. Ruthee-Lu Bayer; Susan Harrison; Nassau County PO Gregory Holgerson; President, Don Monti Memorial Research Foundation Mrs. Caroline Saladino

WOODBURY, NY – In a heartwarming meeting, Nassau County Police Officer Gregory Holgerson, 42, of Deer Park, NY, finally had the chance to personally thank Susan Harrison, 52, of Northampton, England, for the bone marrow that helped him survive his ongoing battle with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).

The two have been communicating via email since the successful bone marrow transplant at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, NY, in 2014 but had never set eyes on each other.

Officer Holgerson, who returned to his job just two weeks prior to the reunion, says he was frightened and deeply saddened when he learned he had AML, characterized by the rapid growth of abnormal white blood cells that accumulate in the bone marrow and interfere with the production of normal blood cells.

“My son was just two weeks old when I received this diagnosis. I have so much to live for…my wonderful wife, my family. I have so many reasons to live,” he said.

“Greg is such a wonderful young man with a beautiful family,” said his physician Ruthee-Lu Bayer, MD, who heads the Don Monti Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Program at North Shore University Hospital (NSUH). “It’s always such a thrill for us to see how a bone marrow transplant can give a person a second chance at life.”

Ms. Harrison, a physician’s assistant in England, said that she was thrilled to make the journey to the United States to finally meet the man whose life she saved. Her decision to become a bone marrow donor was extremely personal -- her husband was only 12-years-old when he lost his mother at age 42 to leukemia in the 1970s.

 “It is so wonderful for me to finally meet Greg and his family,” she said. “This is the icing on the cake…Greg and his family are so lovely and welcoming, and what we have been through is unbelievable. We are connected for life now.”

The reunion took place at the annual Celebration of Life Dinner, sponsored by the Don Monti Memorial Research Foundation, held at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury. The event is a highlight for bone marrow donors and recipients, family members, healthcare professionals and supporters.

In June 1972, 16-year-old Don Monti died at NSUH of myeloblastic leukemia. Within days of his death, his parents Tita and Joseph Monti committed themselves to founding an organization in his memory, dedicated to the mission of finding a cure for cancer. They established the Don Monti Memorial Research Foundation, which has raised and contributed tens of millions of dollars over the past four decades toward cancer research, education, fellowship and patient care. Today, the program is under the stewardship of the Montis’ daughter Caroline Monti Saladino.go.

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