BUFFALO, NY - A volunteer firefighter from southern Erie County is calling on his brothers and sisters in the fire service to lend a hand, in his battle with a serious illness.
"I love the fire service," said David Blank of Lake View, who has been a member of North Boston Fire Department for the past 30 years, including a stint as chief.
Earlier this year, Blank, 53, began experiencing unexplained and excruciating bone pain.
"I kind of blew it off at first as old age and overdoing it sometimes," Blank told WGRZ-TV.
Last month after a bone marrow biopsy, doctors confirmed a diagnosis of Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).
Blank has been hospitalized at Roswell Park Cancer Center since July 3rd, undergoing chemotherapy.
While there, he struck up a casual conversation with a nurse who noticed he was wearing a tee shirt from his volunteer fire company, and as a volunteer firefighter herself, began chatting with him about their respective service.
"I asked him how he planned to pass his time in the hospital," said nurse Kelly Smith, who is also a Lieutenant with Hutchinson Hose in Williamsville. "He said that he wanted to wear a different fire company tee shirt every day of his treatment, as part of a support system through his chemotherapy."
"All the firefighters are a brotherhood," said Blank, who believes that by wearing their shirts, he can use that as a means to know that his brothers are fighting this battle right along with him.
Smith hatched a plan.
"I contacted my chief, who sent an e-mail to each chief in the Amherst Fire District," said Smith, who explained that those chiefs began reaching out to others, and before long tee shirts began to arrive from fire departments in Western New York and beyond.
"I think this shows the love we have for each other," said Williamsville Fire Chief Michael A. Measer, who is now helping to coordinate the effort, by directing the donated fire department tee-shirts to the Bee Group Newspapers, where he serves as a Vice President.
"When someone in a family has cancer or a serious illness, I think everyone in the family feels it. In the fire service, we're that family," Measer said.
This is not Blank's first encounter with leukemia.
Almost 20 years ago his then three year old daughter Brianna was also diagnosed with the disease, although she has been cancer free for more than 16 years and recently graduated from Canisius College.
"She knows all about this disease….the good, the bad,…and she's not going to let her dad go by the wayside," Blank said.
Neither will a nurse who went above and beyond the call of duty to make a patient feel better.
Neither will countless other firefighters who will no doubt answer the bell again, this time, with a simple, but powerful gift made of cloth.
"It's a pick me up to know everyone is behind me," Blank said.
If you are a member of a fire company, and you'd like to send along a tee-shirt for Dave Blank, you can drop them off at, or mail them to the Amherst Bee, 5564 Main St, Williamsville, NY 14221
You can also find out more on the Williamsville Fire Department facebook page.
Blank wears a size XL tee shirt.
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