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We failed to save Sgt. Roldan, but fight goes on

Updated: January 30, 2014 6:40AM

Encarnacion Roldan earned the respect of his peers at the Cook County Sheriff’s Department with his professionalism.

The sergeant demanded that the police officers he supervised be prompt and perform their duties to the letter of their oaths.

Roldan won their admiration with his heart. He was popular for reaching out to officers who lost loved ones or battled illnesses. He was the one who brought cards in for coworkers to sign and slip money in when costs were steep.

For years he organized toy drives for needy children and volunteered for the Boys and Girls Club.

I learned some of this about Roldan while attending a bone marrow drive outside the courthouse at 26th and California in August, a last-ditch effort by fellow cops to save Roldan’s life.

He was suffering from T-cell peripheral lymphoma and needed a bone marrow transplant to survive.

“If not for me, for someone else,” he said more than once that day.

The bone marrow drive was part pep rally, an initiative to bring awareness to the need for Latinos and other minorities to register with as bone marrow donors.

Among about 9 million registered with the National Marrow Donor Program, only about 400,000 were Latinos, I wrote about Roldan days after the event. He needed a fellow Latino to save his life.

It didn’t happen for Roldan. He died Sept. 7. He was 51.

“His words, like my other Latino patients, stay etched in my mind — the fact that they are diagnosed with cancer is horrible, but the real tragedy is when they need (their) transplant and find that there is a crisis of not enough Latinos,” Julie Contreras, a marrow account manager for LifeSource who organized the bone marrow drive, wrote in an email 10 days ago.

“Encarnacion is one of those amazing humans I have the honor to serve because they are true heroes who not only think of themselves but others whose lives can be saved.”

In the comments section of my column posted online Aug. 10, Roldan thanked Sheriff Tom Dart, organizers, his supervisors and fellow officers for their efforts.

But in a sentence in which he gave thanks to those who registered, he noted: “There could have been a lot more people (especially the Latino/Hispanic community) show up at the registry drive.”

Those words stayed with me, and they should stay with all of us. We blew a chance to save one of the good guys, one of Cook County’s finest.

Roldan, on the other hand, put a fellow officer on course to save a life.

From the August bone marrow drive, a Cook County sheriff’s officer was found to be a match for a patient fighting a blood cancer.

Recently, the transplant took place successfully, sheriff spokesman Benjamin Breit told me.

The sheriff’s office, mindful of privacy laws on health matters, has not released the officer’s name.

The officer could decide not to come forward publicly. “A lot of these guys don’t want to be known as heroes, even though they are,” Breit said.

Let it be known that Roldan didn’t find a donor to save his life, but in line with his giving spirit, he helped find one for someone else.


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