LAWTON, OK (KSWO)- April is Donate Life Month. It's celebrated to help encourage people to register as organ, eye and tissue donors, and to celebrate those that have saved lives through the gift of donation.
"He was looking for a donor, and he asked me 'hey would you be interested if you were a match?' And I said, 'well certainly.'" 28 years ago, Brett Rankin's brother Mark, had kidney failure and needed a transplant. So, when Brett found out he was a perfect match, he knew that he wanted to do it.
"If you can count on your family, your family will count on you, and your family will be there for you," explained Rankin.
"I at the time didn't realize what was going on, just knew my dad was having surgery and he was going to save my Uncle's life." Melissa Alvillar, Brett's daughter, was 9 at the time the surgery happened. She's now a nurse for Comanche County Memorial Hospital.
"I know now the impact of what my dad did for my Uncle. He gave him an opportunity at life that he otherwise wouldn't have received," said Alvillar.
Brett says he healed just fine and lived a normal life even after the surgery.
"I was able to eat and drink and run and throw a ball and my lifestyle didn't change," said Rankin.
"I ask my dad going back now knowing what you know now, things that have happened to you now would you have changed or made a different decision? And he says absolutely not. I would still give my brother that chance at life," said Alvillar.
Unfortunately, Mark passed away 15 years after the surgery from other medical complications. But because Brett donated his kidney to his brother, we was given those 15 extra years. However, in Brett's eyes...
"It doesn't mean I'm a hero. Because that's my brother. That's all there is to it, is a family member."
But Melissa thinks otherwise.
"He's my hero, he's my hero."
"For the people that are on list waiting, don't give up, because that blessing can come from anywhere. It can come from anywhere." Orlando Carter was on the receiving end of a kidney 3 years ago, after he found out his kidneys were scarred, when he went to the doctor for high blood pressure.
"I was actually working and I was playing with a blood pressure cuff, and the nurse was standing there and it read 220 over 225. And she told me to do it again so I did it again, and it was 220 over 225. And she said, that's not right," said Carter.
"I think I took it harder than he did." Morgan Carter was Orlando's fiance at the time when they found out that he would need a kidney transplant. "Planning a wedding with somebody who may not be here for that long was definitely stressful, and something you always think about."
"It was going to be a 6 year wait for my blood type which was a rare blood type, and talking to the doctors, they figured out that I wouldn't last 6 years trying to wait on a kidney," said Orlando.
So Orlando and Morgan talked with their family about getting tested. And Orlando's brother was a match. So after three years on the list, Orlando had the surgery, and it was a success.
"Just knowing that I'm healthy and everything is working and just going on my doctor visits and taking my medicine everything is perfect now," explained Orlando.
"He just had this color, this life in him. He had more energy, and he just had a different will to live I think. And I still see that to this day with our daughter," said Morgan.
Orlando and Morgan had trouble trying to conceive before the transplant, and after they became pregnant with their little girl. Morgan says she owes that to her brother-in-law.
"I will forever be grateful for him, because he gave me my husband back. I love him not just because he's my brother-in-law, but because like I said, he gave me my husband back."
"Very thankful, without my brother, I wouldn't be here."
Both families want people to know that if you are able to, get tested so you can help families out there like theirs.
"Research. Find out the information that you're questioning. And just consider what else you would be doing," explained Alvillar.
"It really does impact their lives, in all aspects. Whether it's if they have a child. They're around to be with their children longer," said Morgan Carter.
"If you have a family member that you may be able to help that has a situation get checked out," said Rankin.
"People that don't know about being a donor, get checked out. It's worth it. It's worth it," said Orlando Carter.
Comanche County Memorial Hospital is hosting a Donate Life Month Celebration with Life Share this Wednesday, April 12th at noon. There will be stories of hope from others who have donated or been a recipient. It will be in Maple Room's 1 and 2. There you can register to be an organ donor.