, Salem, MA


August 26, 2009

Middleton Jail corrections officer gives 13-year-old a chance

Daniel Katz won a kind of lottery. It didn't bring him riches, but it may have offered something more valuable — the comfort of knowing that he acted to save a child's life.

This all started five years ago when Katz was a student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, preparing for a career in corrections. He was also an intern at Middleton Jail. Along with classmate and pal Jason Alexander of Salem, he happened on a booth where students were invited to give a blood sample in order to qualify as bone marrow donors.

"It seemed like a nice thing to do," he recalls today.

Both of them gave blood. Then, Katz promptly forgot about it. Until a few months ago, when he got a call.

"One in 200 people get the call," he explains. Alexander, for example, was not called.

But the odds are even slimmer than that. "One in three people that do get the call are asked to be donors," adds Katz, who grew up in Marblehead. He might have been forgiven if he'd simply waved off the medical people and gone about his job. That job is hard enough. Katz is now a guard at the jail.

But even if he'd had thoughts of ducking out — which he didn't — the doctors made an extremely compelling case. "They told me it would be a 13-year-old boy right away," Katz remembers. The youth has acute leukemia.

"To need a bone marrow transplant, you've got to be very sick," Katz says.

In this case, it wasn't just that he was a good match. They told him he was the only match. With no responsibilities to anyone but himself, he instantly made the decision to do it.

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