BARGERSVILLE, Ind. — April is National Donate Life Month, raising awareness about the importance of organ donation.
Just last week, the power of community helped a local woman awaiting a transplant get to the hospital to receive her new organs.
Right in the middle of severe storms we had last Wednesday, an evening phone call put the O'Daniels family on the clock.
Sara O'Daniels had been waiting for 6 1/2 months for a new kidney and a new liver.
Now, it was time.
"You never knew when the call was coming and they were right," Patrick O'Daniels said. "We didn't know it was coming!"
But Sara's life-saving surgery was suddenly at odds with the weather and her watch.
"On the phone they said, 'This is so-and-so from University Hospital. We're calling to say we have a pair of organs for you. We have a kidney and liver and you need to be here within an hour,'" Sara recalled. "I said, 'You've gotta be kidding me!' And they're like, 'No, you have organs and you need to be here as soon as possible. Can you do it?' And I said yes!"
She started a countdown on her phone right after that call: one hour.
But here's the thing.
The O'Daniels live in Brown County.
University Hospital is in downtown Indianapolis.
A regular drive just doesn't make it.
"Our house? It's an hour and 20 minutes away from University Hospital and I have got to figure out how to cut 20 minutes off of my travel," Sara said.
"And it's raining and nasty," Patrick added.
"So my husband decides that he's going to call 911," Sara said.
"While we're going, because we didn't want any delay," Patrick said.
Their goal: get an emergency escort to the hospital so they could get downtown, fast.
But the weather was problematic.
Dispatchers in Brown County couldn't help. Johnson County was having trouble, too. All emergency crews were already working storm-related runs.
So the O'Daniels, with their three kids in the minivan, warned dispatch -- they'd be driving way over the speed limit.
"We just politely told them that we would be speeding and please don't pull us over because we don't have time. We have to get there in an hour," Sara said.
But a few precious minutes later, timing started to work in their favor.
"She calls back and she goes, 'I've got a solution,'" Sara said. "She says, 'I've contacted the fire department in Bargersville and they have an ambulance waiting for you and they will take you from Bargersville to University and that way you'll get there safely and the family can slow down.'"
"The ambulance crew had just marked back in service, was coming back down this way and we were able to get them here as fast as we could," explained Bargersville Fire Chief Eric Funkhouser. "We knew that we were up against the clock, obviously. As we heard the sirens coming, we were able to hear them coming down 135. Basically had enough time to turn around, back the ambulance in and within two to three minutes, the family was pulling into the parking lot really. They quickly ended up parking right out here and then everybody jumped out of the van. It was great to see just the excitement on their faces. They knew they'd made it to the firehouse."
"It all worked out and God was with us the whole time. He really, you know, paved the way for us and allowed us to, you know, just fall into the right hands the whole night," Sara said. "When I got into the ambulance, I had 30 minutes, 28 minutes. She says, 'It's gonna be loud. We're running lights and sirens. We're going to get you there as quick as possible.' You're getting a little scared, a little stressful and we're just flying through."
Firefighter paramedics took her downtown and brought her into the hospital with seconds to spare.
"When I walked into those elevators, my phone timer went off. At University Hospital. So I had made it! In my one hour time. But it was only because of that ambulance ride and everyone at the fire station that allowed me to take their EMT crew," Sara said.
Even better news?
Sara's transplant surgery was a success and she gets to go home soon, with a new kidney, a new liver and new friends at the Bargersville fire station, who raced against time to save a life.