A teen who has fought cancer three times was treated to a hero’s welcome by a New York fire department after he was finally cleared to go home from the hospital.
“There must be a fire,” 16-year-old Zachary Swart immediately thought when he saw fire trucks headed toward his home in Saugerties.
As Inside Edition reports, Zach had absolutely no idea that he was being surprised by the fire department when he returned home from New York City, where he had undergone treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia for the third time.
Zach’s road to recovery has been anything but easy, since he learned early on in his battle that his cancer was more aggressive than doctors initially thought.
After chemotherapy failed to work on him, Zach enrolled into a CAR T cell immunotherapy study at Memorial Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan.
“I barely squeezed in — he was able to push me through,” Zach said of his doctor, Kevin Curran, a St. Baldrick’s scholar researcher.
Although the treatment itself went well, Zach soon discovered that he would have to undergo radiation and a bone marrow transplant.
While Zach’s two brothers, Ben and Gabe, both volunteered to be Zach’s bone marrow donors, only Ben came back as a match.
“It was a pretty amazing, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, really,” Ben, 20, said. “Though it’s not something you want to have to do, it’s kind of one of the last resorts. It felt pretty good to be able to help.”
“I was pretty relieved that there was a 10 out of 10 match somewhere, and it was my brother, which was perfect. We had a lot of odds in our favor,” Zach added.
Although the treatment was certainly difficult, Zach finally got the chance to return home, where he was greeted by the Centerville-Cedar Grove Fire Department.
“I thought there was a big fire or accident,” Zach said of the incredible surprise. “I came around the corner and there was a big sign that said ‘Welcome Home Zach.’ I didn’t realize everyone was there for me and that was crazy.”
For Zach, who comes from a family of firefighters, the special greeting was unbelievably touching.
“The comradery is amazing,” his brother, Ben, said. “It was great; it was the most incredible thing ever.”
“I was astonished,” Zach agreed.
As Zach recovers, he’s looking forward to all the little things he missed during his time in the hospital.
“I’m looking forward to eating take-out food. I have to eat home-cooked meals, which is fine,” he said. “But it would be nice to have a burger from McDonald’s. That should take a little bit of time though.”
“I’m definitely a lot better,” he continued. “Each week I get a little stronger and more energetic. I’m getting there.”