Robert’s Story


If I was lucky enough, the donor tissue would allow me to return serving my community as an EMT and firefighter.

Robert, tissue recipient

Robert, a retired lifeguard and respected EMT and firefighter in Southern Ohio, was best known around his hometown for his signature splash move at the pool: the can-opener. On June 11, 2011, with kids lining up on the pool’s edge waiting to be splashed, Robert slipped on the diving board, falling hard on his knee.“I immediately knew that something was terribly wrong,” says Robert.

Robert’s fears were confirmed when doctors told him he had suffered a complete rupture of his patellar tendon. The injury meant that he may never be cleared to work on an ambulance or fight a fire again. Robert was devastated as he entered surgery to try to repair the tendon. “Upon waking from the surgery, I was in a full leg cast and was told that the injury was worse than expected,” said Robert. “My surgeon explained that my tendon was only about 50 percent viable, so my options were to wear a brace for the rest of my life, or have a second surgery using donor tissue.”

In July 2011, after weeks of researching, Robert underwent the second surgery using donor tissue. “Donor tissue was the best option for me, because it would give me the best quality of life,” says Robert. “I knew if I was lucky enough, the donor tissue would allow me to return to serving my community.” After the surgery, Robert worked with his physical therapist to return to his firefighting and EMS position and signed up to become a Donate Life Ambassador.

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Within five weeks, Robert was walking unassisted and each day made progress toward his goal. In February 2012, after months of therapy, he was cleared for duty and able to rejoin the fire department. That same month he fought his first fire since the injury. Robert’s ordeal shed a new light on what organ and tissue donation means. Each day he is thankful for his tissue donor, who allowed him to live without physical boundaries. Robert recently became a father, and looks forward to one day teaching his son how to do his infamous can-opener.

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