BELOIT - Helping save lives is a passion for Beloit Fire Department Capt. Mike Rosario, but he was in jeopardy of having to give up that dream as he battled chronic kidney disease.
That's when his brother and fellow firefighters stepped up to help him receive a transplant. And now he's becoming a statewide advocate for others, in coordination with a University of Wisconsin Health system program.
Rosario, or Rosie as he's known around the department, received a kidney from his younger brother Steve in April of 2008, and was back at the fire station less than three months after the surgery. But his support system didn't stop there.
After a complication with his first dialysis treatment leading up to the transplant, he couldn't drive for six months so Beloit fire staff stepped up to drive him from Pardeeville, where he was living at the time, to Beloit for treatment.
"Everyone stepped up and helped me out," Rosario said. "Now it's my goal to support them and help as many people as I can."
He said the transplant helped give him perspective on his career in the fire service, a journey that started in 1992.
"When you get a job like this you know it's something you are going to hang onto and be doing for a long time," Rosario said. "When there's a chance you can't do it anymore, you realize time is precious and you take advantage of being here and making it better for the organization and the people here."
Rosario's story of perseverance was shared this year by University of Wisconsin Health and he is one of 12 individuals featured in "Remarkable Strength: 2019 Transplant and Organ Donation Calendar." Along with that, Rosario has been dubbed with the tongue-and-cheek title of "Mr. November."
Rosario said he and a staff member of UW Health connected following a fire department ceremony last year honoring the life of Brody Austin, 19, of Clinton, who donated organs following his death in a motorcycle accident in April of 2015.
In July, UW Health shot a short video with Rosario and his brother Steve and took photos for the special calendar.
"It was a great experience," Rosario said.
Rosario serves as an executive board member of the Firefighters Local 583 union and has held previous positions of paramedic, relief driver, motor pump operator, acting lieutenant before being promoted to captain last December.