Officers with NYPD Community Affairs Bureau of Patrol Borough Queens South and NYPD Summer Youth Employment Program members brightened the day of 9-year-old leukemia patient Hazeley Mena on Aug. 5 in Jamaica.
Mena, who loves Elsa from the movie “Frozen,” was diagnosed with leukemia last December and is scheduled for a stem cell transplant on Aug. 15.
Det. Tanya Duhaney said how she found out about Mena’s condition was “crazy.”
Duhaney recalled stopping behind a cab while driving through Jamaica. The detective saw a young girl leaving the cab with her mother and walking into her building and noticed that the girl appeared to be in bad health.
She asked the cab driver about the girl and he told Duhaney that Mena had cancer and was returning home from a chemo treatment. She then asked if he had Mena’s mom’s phone number. Unfortunately, the cabbie didn’t have the number.
“So that night, I couldn’t sleep,” Duhaney recalled. “This little girl kept flashing through my head.”
Determined to find Mena and her family, Duhaney returned to the building the next day. She knocked on doors asking neighbors if they knew a little girl with leukemia, but nobody knew her.
“As I was exiting her building, Hazeley, her mom and grandmother were coming back from treatment,” Duhaney said.
Duhaney asked Mena’s mom, Jennifer Loar, if the NYPD could visit her daughter to brighten her spirits. Hazeley’s mom was all for it. She told the 20-year NYPD veteran that Mena was sad about the upcoming surgery.
“So, that’s why we came back today to give her a little party and to cheer her up,” Duhaney said.
According to the American Cancer Society, leukemia is the most common cancer in children and teens, accounting for almost one out of three cancers.
Leukemia symptoms include fatigue, feeling weak, infections and fever.
The primary treatment is chemotherapy and in some higher-risk cases, high-dose chemotherapy may be given along with a stem cell transplant.
Hazeley’s dad was a donor match and the chances of a successful transplant are 50%.
Melina Devoer, Mena’s aunt that the party was an act of kindness the NYPD officers didn’t have to do, and her niece was very excited.
“She’s always loved cops,” Devoer said. “So she was very happy that she was gonna be surprised by officers.”
Regarding Mena’s current health status — she receives treatment at the Cohen Children’s Medical Center in Queens — Devoer said, “It’s good days with the bad days. It’s just a really tough situation at the moment.”
Mena was diagnosed with leukemia last December. The young girl had had a fever for two days and swollen glands when her family took her to the emergency room.
“That’s when they ran all sorts of tests and confirmed that she had Leukemia, unfortunately,” Devoer said. “God willing, we are hoping for a cure with the bone marrow transplant.”
“[The family] is going to try their best to support both of them,” Duhaney, who was dressed as the Disney character Moana, said. “And I told Hazeley anything that she needs from the NYPD, we’re definitely here for her.”
Duhaney’s colleague NYPD P.O. Janelle Flemens said Mena looked energized during the get-together, during which the officers presented the youngster with a bunch of gifts, including a Moana doll, beauty products, an NYPD cap, socks and a sweater to keep her warm after surgery.
“She was happy,” Flemens said. “Because I think she saw what we did for her. It kept up her spirit.”
Roczuel Barker and Johnny Dunbar participate in the NYPD Summer Youth Employment Program.
Barker said the event was very emotional, but “at the same time, it encourages you to always do good.”
Dunbar loves interacting with people but admitted that the event was sad.
“Everybody was crying, but the little girl, she was very happy. I tried to keep it positive,” 17-year-old Dunbar said.
The commanding officer of the 103rd Precinct, NYPD Captain Ronald Lubin, said brightening a 9-year-old cancer patient’s day was part of the police’s community involvement, which people don’t know enough about.
“People always look at the crime aspect of things,” Lubin said. “But a lot of it is police helping out the community. We always like to keep that partnership going to let the public know that police are here for, not just when they call 911.”