Vista Firefighter and heart transplant recipient Captain Mike McFadden, lowered the Donate Life Flag at Palomar Medical Center in Escondido on Friday morning during a ceremony to honor fallen San Diego Police Department Detective Tim Williams.
Williams, who died in a bike accident in 2015, was a 30-year SDPD veteran and an organ donor whose organs helped save the lives of three people.
“Being here today is obviously an honor," McFadden told NBC 7. "I’ve worked many, many years alongside police officers … They save lives every day."
The lowered flag was then presented to a Williams' family representative.
"This particular officer and his family made that difficult decision to donate his organs and that in turn saves numerous other lives, and I can’t thank that family enough for their gift," McFadden said.
McFadden himself was not a recipient of Williams' organ donations.
McFadden was awarded Vista Firefighter of the Year and received is heart transplant 10 years ago. After his surgery, he became the first person in the country to return to active duty following a heart transplant.
“When I got the call it’s just mind-blowing,” McFadden said of finding out he would receive a transplant. “You’re so sick to be listed on a donor list, you have to be so sick to begin with, and you really don’t have much of a life existence and this is an opportunity to return to normal life functions, whatever it is you do, so it was just an amazing, amazing day."
McFadden says the transplant doesn't solve everything, and he still has health struggles, but "the bottom line is you’re alive and you’re able to do what you normally would do."
A short ceremony preceded the flag lowering event.
Donors saved 363 lives in San Diego County alone last year – 49 of those operations took place at Palomar Medical Centers in Escondido and Poway, according to Palomar Health.