As he stood near the podium, he could feel all eyes on him. This wasn’t something David Curtin was used to – he prefers to be behind the scenes, saving lives, having his crew’s back. But today the New York firefighter was in the spotlight. “I don’t like anybody to make a hoopla over me, but in the same breath I felt proud and honored to be able to help out. So I just focused on my wife and daughter – they couldn’t stop grinning from ear to ear.” They had good reason – David was being inducted into the prestigious Honor Roll of Life, a joint program by the Fire Department of New York City and New York Blood Center that recognizes an exclusive group of firefighters for their selfless bone marrow donations.
A PERFECT MATCH
David had originally volunteered for bone marrow donations while in training at the FDNY Academy. Fast forward 13 years, when David got a phone call letting him know he was a preliminary match for a man in his 50s, battling leukemia. David recalled, “When the phone rang I was actually at my uncle’s wake – he had just passed away. The timing was a little wild, but I told them, ‘Yeah, absolutely, when do we get started?’”
After several doctors’ visits and countless rounds of blood work, it turned out David was a perfect match. The physicians asked David if he would be willing to actually go through with the bone marrow donation. As his wife, Dana, said, “Without hesitation, David said yes. Throughout the entire ordeal, he never questioned his decision to donate. His passion for helping others is so deep, so incredibly amazing.”
The bone marrow donation required a nurse to make home visits twice a day to give David injections that would increase the volume of T-cells in his bone marrow. On the morning of the retrieval, David geared up for a long day at the hospital. He would need to undergo another injection, a waiting period and finally a six-hour retrieval procedure. “Every hour or so they would run a check on the levels. It turns out I gave them twice the amount of bone marrow in half the amount of time – they were calling me Superman!” said David.
Dana’s not surprised her hubby came through the bone marrow donation with flying colors. She said, “My husband is a giver, an incredibly selfless man with a passion to serve. It is part of his core being, to give of himself.”
Dana said his giving nature has even extended to her Origami Owl® business, where David is her partner, co-Designer and Chief Hauler Of All Things Origami Owl. Dana first heard about Origami Owl over three years ago, when a friend’s locket caught her eye. “I wanted to order a locket, and she kept telling me I should join,” said Dana. “I said I didn’t have time – just give me my locket!” joked Dana.
Then everywhere Dana went, people kept asking about the locket and she thought maybe she could give it a try. She said, “I thought I’d do Origami Owl once a month, for some creativity and me-time.” That once-a-month plan quickly turned into much more, and now the Curtins mentor a large team of Designers as Executive Team Leaders.
While it may be surprising that one of “New York’s bravest” also knows his way around charms and lockets, it’s his desire to support his wife that’s behind it all. “I have to admit when Dana first wanted to join Origami Owl, I was like, ‘You’re going to do what?!’” said David. “The first year I didn’t do much but help behind the scenes with the logistical aspect. But then I saw how much heart and dedication she put into it, and how much love and support Origami Owl gave back – I thought I should step up my game and support her more on the front lines, as well.”
Working together on Origami Owl has brought this tight-knit family even closer, and for Dana it’s also provided “live sparkly” joy. “I love hearing so many stories of overcoming obstacles, of triumph and loss. Being in New York, I’ve met hundreds of people who have lost loved ones in 9-11. To be able to help them keep their memory alive through jewelry is beyond anything I could have ever imagined. Just helping someone through a time of either a celebration or a loss, being a listening ear is amazing. My clients have become my friends; they’ve become part of why I continue to do this. I feel so blessed and so lucky.”
For David, his “live sparkly” joy comes from his family. “Whenever my wife and daughter are at their happiest is when I’m at my happiest, too.” And of course, he also finds satisfaction in helping others, which is what fuels him at work. “We see people at their worst time, and the best part about it is making a difference in their lives.” As for bone marrow donations? While his recipient has since passed away, David’s glad he could help him at least live a few more months – and he’s ready to go again anytime it’s needed. He said, “I’m honored to have done it once, I would do it as many times as I possibly could if it gave somebody a chance to live even a little longer.”
To find out more about bone marrow donations, visit www.bethematch.org.