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Nassau officer meets bone marrow donor who saved his life

Gregory Holgerson, a Nassau County police officer from

Gregory Holgerson, a Nassau County police officer from Deer Park, had an emotional meeting with Susan Harrison of Northampton, England, who provided him with a life-saving bone marrow transplant, Tuesday evening, May 10, 2016 at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury. Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Greg Holgerson bounded down the stairs of the terrace room at Crest Hollow Country Club, and wrapped his arms around Susan Harrison in a warm bear hug.

“She’s my hero,” Greg Holgerson, 42, a Nassau County police officer, told the reporters assembled.

His wife, Christine, 37, followed close behind, tears streaming down her face.

It was the first face-to-face meeting of Holgerson with 57-year-old Harrison, whose stem cells brought Holgerson’s cancer into remission.

A doctor’s visit for a softball injury in 2012 had resulted in a surprise diagnosis of Acute Myeloid Leukemia for the officer and chemotherapy wasn’t effective.

Holgerson needed a transplant -- and Harrison had bone marrow to give.

The donor-recipient duo got to meet for the first time Tuesday after The Don Monti Memorial Research Foundation paid to fly Harrison in from her native England as part of the annual survivor’s dinner sponsored by North Shore University Hospital.

The Monti Foundation funds a meetup for such a pair each year, said Caroline Monti Saladino, foundation director, and this year selected Holgerson and Harrison.

Saladino said the meetings are always touching, and Tuesday night’s was no different.

“It takes my breath away. We’re ready to enjoy her and just be normal people,” Christine Holgerson said after tearfully embracing Harrison. “I don’t know how to ever repay her.”

Harrison, a physician’s assistant in Northampton, England, had signed up to donate bone marrow 30 years ago because her husband was a donor, and then forgot about it until the phone rang one day.

“I got a phone call in October 2013 which changed everything,” she said. A man was calling from Anthony Nolan Trust, saying her marrow had come up as a match for a man in the United States.

“It was a shock, but it was like great, at least I can do something for somebody,” she said.

Harrison underwent several weeks of steroid injections before donating the marrow in late 2013. Holgerson had his transplant in January 2014. And he remains healthy, recently returning to work.

Holgerson and Harrison didn’t begin to communicate until December 2015 -- transplant recipients typically have to wait to contact their donor. It’s often a period of about a year, but Harrison’s registry required they wait two years before exchanging emails. Despite the wait, they said, the pair quickly bonded.

Holgerson said they plan to show Harrison around New York this week. The family has plans to take her to Manhattan on Wednesday.

“I knew it was going to be great, I’m just so glad she came,” Holgerson said.

“How could I not?” Harrison replied.

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