A New York City firefighter with the rare O-negative blood type who was critically hurt in a devastating Brooklyn brownstone fire more than two years ago got a chance to thank the blood donors who helped save his life.
Rob Wiedmann was part of the FDNY's Elite Rescue 2 unit when he and four other firefighters were injured battling a blaze in Crown Heights in December 2011. He ended up with mostly third-degree burns on 50 percent of his body, and has since endured a dozen surgeries.
"It's been over two and a half years. Been tough, painful," said Wiedmann. "It's been difficult with the kids seeing me go through therapy and recovery."
For the first time, the Long Island native and father of two was able to meet some of the people who donated the blood that saved his life at the New York Blood Center's annual awards ceremony in Woodbury on Wednesday.
One of the donors was a firefighter from Boston who, when he heard Wiedmann's story, got on a train and came to New York to donate.
"He needs blood," Ray Hegarty, a member of the Massport Fire Department, recalled thinking. "I'm O-negative. I can come down and help."
Wiedmann, who was a blood donor himself long before the fateful fire, still gives. His rare, O-negative blood is a precious resource for EMS technicians.
"In our line of work, we see how much blood is needed every day," said Michael Ginty, a member of the FDNY who also donated blood.
"You never know when you might need it," said Wiedmann.