Major Richard Figueiredo understands luck – the good and the bad. Everything seemed to be going his way in 2006, with a new home, a loving family, and a new station at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida. Then he noticed his regular PT runs becoming more difficult and his energy levels dropping. “When I felt out of breath just taking the garbage to the end of the driveway I knew something was wrong.”
In June of 2006, Major Figueiredo was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) Monosomy 7. AML is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow which results in production of abnormal blood cells. It is the most common type of acute leukemia among adults (www.cancer.gov). Major Figueiredo’s particular subtype was among the most aggressive. Doctors estimated he had between two and three weeks to live.
“My family and I were devastated and I immediately thought of my 7 year old son and that I refused to leave him without a father.”
Working with H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, CMajor Figueiredo began treatment immediately. After initial courses of high-dose chemotherapy, the Major was in remission. However, this type of cancer has a high rate of relapse, so it was decided a bone marrow transplant would be necessary.
Good luck was again on the Major’s side. His older brother, Daniel Figueiredo, was a perfect match. Most people – about 70% of those in need of a transplant – are not so lucky. Unable to find a match within their family, they must search through a national registry hoping for a match with an unrelated donor.
The C.W. Bill Young Department of Defense Marrow Donor Program, also called Salute to Life, works with military and civilian DoD employees to facilitate unrelated – called allogeneic - bone marrow and stem cell transplants. These life-saving medical treatments can be used to cure more than 60 different diseases, including different leukemias, lymphoma, sickle cell and severe aplastic anemia, and severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID).
Today, Major Figueiredo is back at work and working hard to give back. He has organized base-wide bone marrow donor registration drives at Patrick AFB, Tinker AFB, and his current location, US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) Garrison Miami, FL. “As time goes by, Bone Marrow Transplants are being used in numerous treatments but if we don’t increase the selection in the National Marrow Donor database there will always be people that suffer needlessly waiting and/or even perish because of the lack of a suitable match.”
We encourage everyone to learn more about bone marrow and stem cell transplants and join the national donor registry. For additional information, visit us at www.salutetolife.org or follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/DODMarrow.