Georgetown firefighter talks organ donation, health awareness, and appreciation for the job he loves
by Ann Marie Ludlow
Brad Hill is a firefighter, a medic, husband and dad. Underneath it all, he’s simply a fighter.
A native of Round Rock, he decided at age 32 he wanted to become a firefighter. He was a member of the Dallas Fire Department for six years and rode the third busiest ambulance in the nation; 60 percent of their time was spent running calls, vs. the national average of 6-7 percent.
Now, at 38, he is a probationary member of the Georgetown Fire Department. Unusual, but maybe not exceptional, y’think?
Oh, and he did all of that after having a kidney transplant, so…
As an organ recipient of less than two years, his enjoyment of his career, family and his life is palpable when he tells his story; “There were so many things that God put in my path to make my life as great as it is today.”
As a young married father, he wasn’t sure about his career path and worked in retail management, successfully, for several years. A single conversation sent him to the web to look at firefighting opportunities, and just reading about it was the spark that he could finally have a job with true fulfillment in service to people.
He spent the next year working to get hired on in Dallas and was disappointed at the last minute by budget cuts. Undaunted, he went through the year-long process again, was hired and stationed at Dallas Station 18.
“Being a firefighter means being part of a real family, and I was never so happy in my life. And, it turns out, the fire department saved my life.”
At his yearly physical, this young, robust, and very fit young dad was told his blood test was concerning. “I felt like a million bucks, but after more tests found out I had IgA nephropathy, and I would eventually need dialysis or a new kidney. Being an EMT, I knew dialysis was not the answer. So for the next two years we watched my blood and hoped for a donor. God had plans for me, and my brother happened to be a match, so my big concern was whether I could come back to my job.”
After that operation was delayed and ultimately shelved, Hill was disappointed but not done. He and his wife Crystal reached out on social media and a friend from his daughter’s softball team visited him in the hospital while he was waiting and basically said, “Well I’ll just go get tested.” Miraculously, he was also a match, and the surgery was scheduled Thanksgiving Day 2015.
His simple message from the experience is to just go to the doctor, period. Even knowing he was “ill” he didn’t feel sick until his kidney was nearly gone.
Hill gradually recovered and couldn’t wait to get back to work. “I didn’t realize how sick I had been until I felt better. I was always tired, but I figured a firefighter should be. It was hard to be patient about recovery and getting back in shape, but my captain was great and let me pace myself. I started back on light duty in February and was back on the truck in March.”
Getting back to work was an uphill battle and, he says, the medication he takes to ensure his continued good health is challenging at times, but it is a small price to pay to do the job I love and be with my family. “I felt completely normal again, like I did before any of this started.”
Hill was again in his element and enjoying the job, but always felt a little tug of Central Texas and coming home to family. When EMS director Ryan Ramsey called and suggested he consider a move back home to Georgetown, Brad initially declined, but Ramsey kept at it, and Hill finally relented.
Not surprisingly, the process to hire Hill went pretty quickly. He and his family are home again in Central Texas and he is now on duty at Station 5.
“I didn’t mind the big city and I loved the crew I was on, but once again, things just seemed to work out for me, and God put things in place. I’m back to being a probie, but I plan to be here for a long time so it doesn’t bother me one bit. People in Georgetown are great; it’s a different demographic, but people smile and say hello and thank you. I love the small town and I wanted that for my daughter. It’s home, again.”