(WSVN) - For nearly three decades, he has been fighting fires and saving lives, but this South Florida first responder recently needed to be saved … and his sister came to the rescue. 7’s Kevin Ozebek puts them in this week’s 7 Spotlight.
Jeff Hackman loves his family, and he loves his job.
Kevin Ozebek: “So that’s your office?”
Jeff Hackman, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue firefighter: “That’s my office.”
When on duty, you’ll find this Miami-Dade firefighter in the driver’s seat.
He fights flames with a specialized truck designed to tackle airplane fires.
Jeff is based at a unique firehouse at Miami Executive Airport.
Kevin Ozebek: “How much do you love the job?”
Jeff Hackman: “Oh, my God. This is my life.”
But a few years ago, this typically very happy guy was dealt a huge blow.
Jeff Hackman: “It was found on a routine physical through my job at the fire department.”
Jeff was diagnosed with kidney disease. The disease progressed, and he could no longer be a frontline firefighter.
Kevin Ozebek: “So, to be told you can’t be on the truck anymore, what was that like?”
Jeff Hackman: “Devastating, devastating.”
Then, a few weeks after being pulled off his truck, there was more bad news. Jeff was told his kidney function was too low.
If he did not get a kidney transplant, there were just two options.
Jeff Hackman: “First dialysis, second death. That simple. When your kidneys aren’t filtering anymore, your body builds up toxicity, so to hear that I needed the help, to hear I was on the other side of that coin, was difficult to swallow.”
Wanting to still be there for his fire station and for his family, Jeff urgently needed to find a donor.
Jeff Hackman: “I’m like, ‘Wow, how do I ask? What do I do? Who do I ask?’ You don’t just walk up to someone, ‘Hey, you want to give me a kidney?'”
Jeff put out a plea for donors on Facebook. The response was overwhelming: about 100 people offered.
But there was only one person whose kidney was a viable match.
Dawn Martin: “He is a pain in my butt. See?”
Jeff Hackman: “So as a little brother should be.”
Doctors determined Jeff’s older sister Dawn would be the perfect donor.
She flew down from Atlanta for the procedure.
Dawn Martin: “If I had the chance to save his life, I am going to do it. It’s just like a firefighter going into a fire, and you don’t think, you go.”
The surgery was a success.
Dawn is now back in Atlanta. She has just one kidney but feels fine.
Dawn Martin: “I am functioning like a normal human with two kidneys.”
And Jeff is back with his truck and crew.
Jeff Hackman: “So I am at a point now where I am better than I was before surgery. I’m back on as a full-duty firefighter. I’m on the truck doing the job I love.”
They were close as kids, but now this brother and sister truly have an unbreakable bond.
Jeff Hackman: “Thank you, and thank you doesn’t cover it. Thank you. I love you.”
Dawn Martin: “This guy has been a firefighter for, what, 20 years, saving so many lives. You know, I can’t even compare to that. I saved one life.”
But a life that means so much to so many.
Kevin Ozebek, 7News.
Jeff also gives a lot of credit to the Miami Transplant Institute. They do the testing to make sure donors are a match.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Miami Transplant Institute
1801 NW 9th Ave.
Miami, FL 33136
Copyright 2022 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.