Firefighter keeps this life-saving task in the family

Milton Giard and his cousin, Rick Walker
Milton Giard and his cousin, Rick Walker

PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — A Pawtucket firefighter kept his life-saving efforts within his own family this week and his brothers and sisters at the firehouse pitched in to help.

For the past 13 years, risking his life has been just part of the job for Milton Giard, so it was no surprise when he stepped in for his cousin, Rick Walker.

“You see people at their worst times,” Giard said. “And I’m excited about having some good news, some positive things in my life.”

Walker has lived with Crohn’s disease since he was 19 years old, and about five years ago the medication that controlled it left his liver in shambles. But the search for a transplant went nowhere.

“A lot of anxiety of waiting for phone calls,” he recalled. “Does this match? Does that match?”

That is, until a routine blood test indicated that his cousin was a potential match.

“At first I thought I didn’t want to take his liver from him,” said Walker. “But he kept pushing and pushing and I said, ‘you know what, I’ll take it.'”

That’s when Giard’s colleagues in the Pawtucket Fire Department stepped in. They volunteered to cover the two to three months of shifts he’ll need to take off before he fully recovers from donating his liver.

“Everyone says I’m doing a great thing,” Giard said. “I think what those guys are doing for me is a great thing.”

So what does a cousin give in exchange for an internal organ?

“He said he’d helped rake my leaves in the fall,” Giard said through laughter. “No, he was very appreciative. Rick is very humble. I think he’s worried about me inconveniencing my life.”

It will take a year for Giard’s liver to regenerate to 100 percent. A nurse said his cousin will be so energized after the transplant that he’ll be doing cartwheels.

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