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Bogota police, firefighters bring Christmas surprise to girl with leukemia

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

ONLY ON CVP: Santa pulled up to 9-year-old Juliana Guerra’s house atop a Bogota fire truck, escorted by two borough police cruisers, and for a little while tonight, the wide-eyed, smiling innocent forgot about the adult form of leukemia that’s forced her into chemo and, soon, radiation therapy.

“She has a very long road ahead of her,” Bogota Detective Geoffrey Cole told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “We just wanted to put a smile on her face.”

That they did, with lights and sirens — and, of course, Christmas gifts — when they arrived at Juliana’s Pompton Plains home just after dark.

The little angel smiled as she unwrapped Lalaloopsy and Barbie dolls, among other presents.

Cole came up with the idea and enlisted fellow officers and borough firefighters, who all wanted to help the granddaughter of Teaneck’s well-known Jay Guerra, owner and operator of The Original Barber Shop on Queen Anne Road.

Many of them get their hair cut by “Jay the Barber,” a master storyteller who keeps a showcase of military relics and other items donated by customers over the decades in his shop. Other loyalists come up from the Jersey Shore and parts north and west.

“He was telling a couple of my officers the story of his granddaughter, and they decided they had to put something together,” Police Chief John C. Burke Sr. told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “They didn’t want any attention for it, but I’m proud of them.”

Juliana has chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), a form of bone-marrow cancer that is most common in men over 50 (average age: 72) and in rare cases strikes children.

Treatment focuses on controlling the disease and its symptoms rather than on an outright cure. That means chemotherapy, radiation and, in some cases, bone marrow transplants.

Juliana attends school via Skype because the disease leaves her succeptible to infection.

Although the prognosis depends on various factors, the overall survival rate of all forms of CLL taken together is roughly 50%.

Cole checked with Juliana’s parents so that the emergency workers could fill her wish list.

“No one knows what the future will bring,” he said. “But everybody here is pulling for her.”

In the photo below, Juliana and Santa pose with, from left, Bogota Firefighters John Greiner, Steven Overbey, and Michael Krynicky, Bogota Police Capt. James Sepp, Firefighter Ian Cordero, Detective Geoffrey Cole, Officer Jerome Fowler and Fire Chief August “Chip” Greiner.

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