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Published May 06, 2014, 10:41 AM

UND student who pulled friend from fire lauded by City of Grand Forks

GRAND FORKS, ND - The city of Grand Forks recognized Ryan Nelson Monday for pulling Matt Heisler from a burning house in March, allowing Heisler to live three more days and donate his organs.

By: Charly Haley, Grand Forks Herald, Forum News Service

GRAND FORKS, ND - The city of Grand Forks recognized Ryan Nelson Monday for pulling Matt Heisler from a burning house in March, allowing Heisler to live three more days and donate his organs.

“We all benefit from citizens protecting citizens,” said Mayor Mike Brown, calling Nelson’s efforts “a selfless act.”

Nelson, 21, pulled his roommate and fellow UND student Heisler from their burning house in mid-March. He ran into the house to get Heisler after coming home to find the house on fire, which was eventually ruled to be a cooking fire.

Nelson’s efforts allowed his friend to live three more days, giving his family a chance to say goodbye, said Cheryl Heisler, Matt’s mother.

“We had three more days with him,” she said. “Those are memories that I have.”

Cheryl Heisler, who lives in the Twin Cities, had wanted be at the City Council meeting Monday to see Nelson receive his award, but couldn’t make it.

Several other friends and family members were there, though, and gave Nelson a standing ovation after he spoke about what the award meant to him.

Organ donation

In thanking city officials for honoring him, Nelson urged people to become organ donors, like Heisler was.

“Matt was always someone who was willing to give,” Nelson said, and because of his organ donation, “Matt is not done here on earth.” His heart, eyes, liver and kidneys have been donated.

Cheryl Heisler reiterated her son’s desire to give through organ donation, and said her family is grateful that Nelson’s efforts allowed their son to do that.

Entering a burning building to try to save someone isn’t something just anyone would do, Cheryl Heisler said. “I would hope I would be able to do something like that.

“We’re just very thankful for what he did,” she said.

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