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Town rallies around teacher who needs transplant - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Town rallies around teacher who needs transplant

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WATERBURY, Vt. -

"It was May 3, 2013," Waterbury Fire Battalion Chief Sally Dillon said.

"Fire pager went off, so I went to get up and I couldn't move the right side of my body," Mandy Drake said.

"We got a call from Jana, one of our other firefighters, that she was at Mandy's apartment and something was wrong with her but she couldn't get in," Sally said.

"Climbed up a ladder, smashed windows and carried me out," Mandy said.

A lot has changed for Mandy in the two years since that night.

"Right now I don't have the left side of my skull," she said.

Since the night of her stroke, Waterbury's firefighters have rallied. They raced in her honor a week after her stroke. Fire Chief Gary Dillon did her toenails when she still couldn't move her right side in rehab. And during her first race after recovering, they carried her during the crab walk.

"She's everything. She's one of us. She's a great friend," Sally said.

And now their friend is being tested again.

"They say I've got to have a liver transplant before they do my head," Mandy said.

When Mandy had her stroke, doctors removed a section of her skull, known as a bone flap, to allow her brain to swell and ultimately heal. She says twice they replaced it and twice an infection forced them to take it off again.

"My neurosurgeon said that he can't do this a third time and risk infection, otherwise I could potentially be living like this. The infections were all due to the liver," Mandy explained.

"A lot of us didn't realize that you can do a live liver donation," Sally said.

Once they had that aha moment that you could be a living donor and donate part of your liver, the fire department wanted to do even more for Mandy. They are hosting a dinner June 5, not only to raise money, but also to raise awareness about organ donation.

"Our biggest focus is to get the word out that she needs a liver and we need to find her a live donor," Sally said.

"Why not? Why not help someone if you can?" Stanley Morse said.

Stanley met Mandy at the department three years ago, not long after a photo of Mandy went viral after Tropical Storm Irene. They have since fallen in love and he was the first to go through testing to become her live liver donor.

"My liver was too small," he said. "They would have had to take 72 percent of my liver... 69.5 is the most they can take."

He says the news was tough to hear.

"Still is today," he said.

Even with the setback, Mandy honors her passions, like the students at Crossett Brook Middle School, where she looks forward to getting back to work.

"Those kids are amazing!" she said.

And she makes regular stops by the fire station, where her gear is ready to go as soon as she is.

"These people are just my heart and soul," Mandy said.

If you want to learn more about efforts to help Mandy or about organ donation -- www.gofundme.com/WFDforMandy -- http://donatelife.net/organ-donation/ -- www.mayoclinic.org/departments-centers/transplant-center/liver-transplant/choosing-mayo-clinic/expertise-innovation-research/living-donor

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