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One year after his double-lung transplant, Maronay, his family and his former fire chief from Oregon gathered at a Phoenix fire station to recognize the St. Joseph's medical team for their lifesaving efforts. The ceremony also underscored a need to raise awareness and encourage organ and tissue donations.
"I was in and out of hospitals until finally my only choices were hospice or having a lung transplant," says Maronay, a career firefighter who was forced to retire from firefighting in 2006. Maronay had been diagnosed as a teenager with Cystic Fibrosis, a life threatening hereditary disorder that causes severe damage to the lungs and digestive system.
In recent years, Maronay moved to Queen Creek, Ariz. as his health steadily declined. He was transferred to St. Joseph’s from another Phoenix hospital in 2012 and was given only weeks to live if he did not receive new lungs. He received the transplant, and in just days was beginning physical therapy to walk again.
St. Joseph's is home to the only lung transplant program in the Valley and is one of the largest transplant programs in the nation. More than 185 patients have been transplanted since the program began just six years ago.
Presenting awards and gifts to the hospital’s transplant team at Fire Station 9 near downtown Phoenix, Maronay said, "firefighters save lives, but St. Joseph's saves firefighters. It may appear that I am the man of the hour. But I am not. All I did was receive a gift of life from all of you. It takes a village, and St. Joseph's is my village. From my family, friends, former fire department and my eyes, you all are the men and women of the hour. You all are truly our heroes."
A special poem was also read to thank the donor family from California. The poem and a flag that once waved over Maronay's fire station in Oregon will be mailed to the family, along with photos from the event.
Maronay worked as a firefighter in Oregon for more than 20 years before being forced to retire from his deputy chief position because of his condition and moved to Arizona to be closer to his children. His former fire chief, Vince Stafford, from Oregon made a special trip to Phoenix to attend the emotional ceremony.
Rajat Walia, MD, medical director and transplant pulmonologist at St Joseph's Center for Thoracic Disease and Transplantation, was among more than 20 doctors and nurses, receiving the special awards from Maronay. "This is an extraordinary day for all of us. Firefighters are special people and we are very honored. It is especially important to have this ceremony on national donor day because so many others might be saved with the generosity of donors."
In the United States, more than 116,000 men, women and children currently need life-saving organ transplants. More than 2,300 people in Arizona need a transplant. One organ and tissue donor can save and heal up to 50 lives.
Maronay said he is living a full and active life these days, hiking, swimming and trying to give back to the community any way he can.
CONTACT: Sara Baird, 602.406.3312