Nightly News   |  February 02, 2014

Man Meets Donor for the First Time

A New York City firefighter turns out to be bone marrow match for a man with cancer.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> finally tonight, they are in the business of saving lives. that is, after all, what firefighters do. here in new york, the idea took on a whole new dimension for one firefighter, who went far beyond the call of duty . nbc's katy tur has our making a difference report.

>> you could say john chimpa has waited 66 years for this moment. the moment he's first meeting the man who saved his life.

>> i'm feeling great.

>> four years ago, he was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder called mds. without a bone marrow transplant , the husband and father of two only had months to live.

>> i really thought i was going to die at one point. i said to myself, it's been a fairly good life. i've had a lovely time with my family and if god wants me, here i come.

>> enter chris howard , engine 255 in flatbush, brooklyn. a total stranger. the 31-year-old new york city firefighter was a match. eight years ago, howard graduated from fire academy and signed up for the national bone marrow registry . in fact, because of the department's encouragement, about 10% of all donors in new york are from the fdny. it's no secret these guys signed up for this job to save lives. the difference is you would expect them to be running into a burning building, not laying in a hospital bed.

>> your mask, your hood, your gloves.

>> reporter: howard has fought countless fires but this was his first life saved. and that he was a dad meant so much more. howard 's dad, george, was a port authority police officer. on 9/11 he ran into the second tower but never made it out. you may remember him.

>> i will carry this, a police shield of a man named george howard who died at the world trade center trying to save others.

>> reporter: chippa got howard 's bone marrow . by the time he went home to recover he was only