HENDRY COUNTY, Fla., - A Hendry County volunteer firefighter is now in the fight of her life.
Melissa Franco volunteers with Montura Flagpole Fire Department in Hendry County.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Franco said. “Sometimes I put it on and I’m just grateful and blessed that God’s given me the opportunity to fight fires and give my community back and keep my people safe.”
Fighting fires gives her the opportunity to serve her community while feeling like a normal person.
“It gives me that 20 to 30 minutes of being perfectly healthy,” Franco said.
At 23, Franco has stage 4 Chronic Kidney Disease. Doctors say the disease can ultimately lead to her kidneys completely shutting down.
“My turning point is when doctors came into my room and said you have about a month or two before we have to prep you for dialysis,” Franco said.
“I broke down. I held every emotion I’ve had for the last three years in that moment. I let it go.”
The disease also causes Franco to be anemic, fatigued and develop kidney stones.
“I’ll be tired and my low back will hurt and I can’t get up from bed,” Franco said.
Franco doesn’t let the disease define her. She continues to beat the odds, staying off of dialysis by changing her eating habits.
But, with renal failure of both kidneys, doctors have told her she will need a donor soon.
“They said about 6 months is what I have with my kidneys right now.”
She’s asking if you would consider being a live donor.
“It’s emotional.” Franco said. “I don’t like asking for help. It took a lot for me to ask for help.”
Franco says a new kidney will give her a fresh start.
“It’ll mean a lot. It’ll help me continue on to my goals of becoming a law enforcement officer. I want to get my masters degree in criminal justice and be able to serve my community.”
Franco is also an EMT with Hendry County, an employee of the Glades County Health Department, and is going to school for her AA degree in Homeland Security, with a dream to become a law enforcement officer.
If you’re interested in testing to be a live donor, call Tampa General Living Donor at (813)-844-5669. Just ask to be tested for recipient, Melissa Franco with date of birth 7/8/1994.