In the summer of 2015, firefighter Jeff Leuschen noticed a blemish on his nose that wouldn’t heal. When he went to the doctor, he learned that it was basal cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer.
Jeff underwent surgery to remove the cancer shortly after his diagnosis, but the procedure resulted in his nostril closing and restricting his airway. He saw a plastic surgeon to have a rhino-septoplasty, where tissue is surgically modified to improve breathing. This helped for about a year, but the tissue detached while he was working.
Jeff needed what he calls a “heavy duty” solution to withstand the physical demands of his job, where he is also a member of his department’s dive team. He received a donor skin graft to return his nose to its original shape and later a bone graft to reinforce its strength. Three years and four procedures later, Jeff is finally getting back to a normal life, breathing with ease and looking forward to his return to diving.
"I'm in the profession of saving people," Jeff said. "This donation saved me and my career and will allow me the ability to continue to save others.”
As a first responder, Jeff knew the impact of tissue donation even before becoming a recipient. On one occasion while on shift, his department’s careful and quick work on the scene ensured a person’s ability to donate, for which the family was incredibly grateful.
Jeff is also a registered donor, but he never thought he’d be on the receiving end. Now he has an even greater appreciation. “I promise that I will not take this gift for granted and will aspire to be a better father, husband and firefighter,” he said.