NASHVILLE, Tenn. - It's called the gift of life, and it wasn't until a Nashville
Firefighter needed a new kidney that he realized just how hard it is to
Al Baltz has been a Captain at Station 17 for 11 years, so he is used to saving stranger's lives and used to being the hero. But when his kidneys failed and none of his family members were a match, a fellow firefighter didn't hesitate to help.
"They said it's time to put yourself on a transplant list," recalled Baltz.
But after more than a year on that list, Baltz's health started to fade and he had to tell his fellow firefighters at Station 2, including old friend Jason Upchurch, what was going on and how bad it really was.
"Next thing I know he is calling me and telling me he is going to be tested," said Baltz.
Upchurch said he made his mind up to give it a try during that very first conversation.
"It was not really anything I had to think about," he said.
Baltz and his wife can both still remember the moment they found out he would get taken off of the transplant list and have a chance at life.
"He showed up at our house, knocked on the door after being tested and said I'm a match. He saved my husband's life absolutely and he saved our family," Jennifer Baltz said.
When surgery day finally arrived, the two families were overwhelmed by the support of another family, their fellow Nashville firefighters. They lined the street and held vigil at Centennial Hospital until they knew the surgery was a success.
After surgery, Baltz said she noticed an instant change to her husband's health.
"The minute I saw him in the ICU I said 'is he running a fever?' Because he was so flush. They said no it's life, that is what life looks like," she explained.
A life saved by one firefighter's selfless decision to give.
"It was exciting knowing that you could do something like that for someone that you care about and that you love," said Upchurch.
It's been just a little more than a week since the surgery and both Baltz and Upchurch are recovering and expect to be back at work as firefighters in about six to eight weeks.
There are 2,400 people waiting for transplants right now in Tennessee. For more information about how to become a donor go to http://www.donatelifetn.org/