The firefighter who collapsed at the scene of a fire on Saturday had just celebrated the 10-year anniversary of his heart transplant days before his death.
Lawrence Matthews, 35, was one of the Dolton firefighters who responded to a blaze in south suburban Harvey around 1:30 p.m., after spending his morning helping aspiring firefighters with their exams.
On the sidewalk near the scene, Matthews collapsed and became unresponsive, officials said.
“He was trying to catch his breath by leaning up against a fence,” said Dolton Fire Chief Pete McCain, who was right next to Matthews when it happened.
Matthews was taken to Ingalls Memorial Hospital where he died about an hour later, authorities said.
It was not clear if his collapse was related to the fire, as the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office continues to investigate his cause of death.
A University of Chicago Medicine article chronicled Matthews’ heart transplant, which took place on June 2, 2007.
Matthews had long wanted to go into public service, according to the University of Chicago, serving in the Army National Guard and exploring a career in law enforcement before he was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy at age 25.
He underwent the transplant a few months later, calling himself “blessed” to have a second chance at life.
Matthews also had a second chance at fulfilling his dreams when he joined the Dolton Fire Department two years later, with the blessing of his medical team.
“The team often reminded me, before and after the transplant, about the need to live a normal life again,” Matthews told the University of Chicago.
“I was always a mentally strong person in going after what I wanted,” he continued. “I believed I could become a firefighter. The doctors gave me the confidence to do so. They told me to go for it. And that’s all I needed to hear.“
On Saturday, Matthews’ firehouse and community honored him with a procession to the medical examiner’s office, sharing their gratitude for his service and the pain of their loss. [[427691613, C]]
“He loved the job,” McCain recalled. “It’s going to be tough.”
“He was a good firefighter,” added Dolton Mayor Riley Rogers.
“He did what he was required and today he paid the ultimate price,” he continued. “No words can express the sorrow that we feel here today.”
Matthews leaves behind four young children and a wife, who he met during a follow-up appointment in the University of Chicago’s cardiology clinic where she worked.