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Family: UND student's organs could help 60 people

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The organs and tissue from a Lakeville High School graduate and University of North Dakota student who died after a fire will benefit at least 60 people, his family said in his obituary.

Matt Heisler, 21, was pulled out of a burning house early Sunday morning by his roommate and childhood friend, Ryan Nelson. Despite the rescue, he died from his injuries on Tuesday morning. But now, as his family grieves his death, they are also grateful for a decision he made when he was a teenager.

"Lots of people's lives will be changed. At least 60 if not more," Matt's mother Cheryl Heisler said Wednesday, KARE 11 reports. "I woke up about four or five in the morning. And I started thinking people are being called right now to come to their hospital. They may get a new liver or a new heart and it just made me feel better."

It's all happening because Matt, as a teenager, decided to check the organ donation box while renewing his driver's license. The young man's friends and family gathered around a flag pole at Hennepin County Medical Center on Wednesday as a flag was raised in honor of his decision to donate his organs.

"It's one thing I didn't have to tell him to do. He did this on his own. He is a good boy," said Jared Heisler, Matt's father, according to WCCO. "I just think that is awesome. You don't think about this until it actually hits your home or family."

Sixty-three percent of Minnesotans are organ donors, KSTP says, well above the national average of about 45 percent.

Matt's family is also grateful for Nelson, who risked his life to pull their son out of the fire.

Nelson arrived home from work to find the friends' house in flames. His actions were detailed on Matt's CaringBridge site. Nelson ran to the back of the house, where Matt's room was located, and used a brick to break through a window. He climbed inside but couldn't find his roommate – so he went out and broke through the front door. Crawling on his hands and knees, Nelson searched for Matt, found him, and carried him outside. Realizing Matt had no heartbeat, Nelson gave his friend CPR and mouth-to-mouth until a heartbeat started again.

Nelson's actions gave Matt's family a chance to say goodbye – and allowed his organs and tissue to help those in need.

"To Ryan Nelson, who risked his life to go into a burning building and save my son, it didn't work out for Matt, but look what that did for these 60 people. If Ryan didn't do that, this wouldn't happen," Jared Heisler said, according to KARE 11.

For more information on organ donation visit LifeSource's website.

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