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International Firefighter's Day: A Life of Saving Others Became a Life in Need of Saving


Ray Brooks has been a volunteer firefighter for over 14 years. Our family knows all about countless hours of volunteer work, risk, and sacrifice. Ray’s passion for protecting others’ lives and property shines through to everyone who knows him. However, last June, it was Ray who needed to be saved. Ray was born three months premature and required blood transfusions. When donating blood in his 20s, Ray learned that he had Hepatitis C.  In May 2006 he underwent a liver transplant at Duke University Medical Center. That liver gave him a second chance and more time: with me, with his son Jackson, with his newly born daughter Riley, and with his community as a volunteer firefighter. But in the spring of 2012, Ray and I begin to see an all too familiar path ahead of us – the need for a new liver.

During a monthly meeting in June 2012, Ray and the Red Oak volunteer firehouse crew were preparing for a 50 year anniversary celebration and a fundraising event for Ray and our family. Ray received a call and looked down at his caller ID: a 919 area code. He knew this could be “the call.” The coordinator on the other end said the words Ray and our family had been praying for: “Ray, we have a liver. It is a perfect match.”  Ray went back into the meeting room with tears in his eyes and announced the news to his brothers before rushing home to tell our family.  Before this particular call we had four “false alarms” between April and June of 2012. By this point we knew this “drill” and had become pretty good at responding!  What we thought would be a few hours turned into all night of waiting!  (Waiting is certainly something you become good at if you are on the transplant list!) Surgery wouldn’t however take place until the following morning. It was a tedious, grueling surgery. The amount of scar tissue the surgeons found astounded them, and it took 16 hours start to finish chiseling away the scar tissue around the old liver and finally being able to transplant the new one. 10 days after surgery Ray was released from the hospital. I created a blog to keep our friends and family updated but also to share Ray’s story with others and the importance of being a donor (

 As May begins and we remember and pay tribute to firefighters everywhere, our family also reflects on our lives at this time last year. Ray and I will celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary on June 9.. Four days later we will celebrate his one year anniversary post-transplant!  Heroes come in all shapes and sizes and show up in unexpected places. While Ray may be a “hero” to others we know that our family’s true hero gave Ray the gift of life last June and shines down on him daily!