In February, the streets surrounding St. Gabriel's Church in Elma were lined with first responders. They came from across Western New York to honor their brother Kevin Przybyl, who passed away following a life-long battle with Cystic Fibrosis.
Przybyl was one of the youngest people to ever become a paramedic in New York State. Over the years he also worked as a 911 dispatcher, an EMT with Mercy Flight, and volunteer firefighter with a number of local departments.
"The lives he impacted could only be counted in the thousands. If not the tens of thousands of lives," explained Don Trzepacz, the Director of Air Medical Operations at Mercy Flight.
Przybyl's wife, Michele, said the support for their family at the funeral and in the days following was unbelievable
"I lived with him every day. I saw him every day. But I didn't truly understand how many people he touched until that day," she said of seeing the hundreds of first responders who showed up at the services.
For anyone to accomplish all Przybyl did is an amazing feat, but the fact that the 37-year-old was living with Cystic Fibrosis makes it even more impressive. The terminal disease means that any small cold can quickly turn into a deadly infection. But Przybyl never let that fact stop him from helping others and responding to any call for help.
"The doctors didn't like him doing that, because they didn't want him to get an infection," explained Michele. "But he just wanted to help people. And he saw that he had this skill. And he was great at it. He was great at assessing people who were hurt or injured or sick, and he knew exactly how to take care of them."
"How many people who have a terminal illness can put everything aside, come out and help somebody without a question?" asked Trzepacz.
Just as big as the mark he made on the community is the mark Przybyl made at home. When he passed away he left behind his wife and seven-year-old son, Casey, who has fond memories of fishing with his father and going to the firehouse with him. In 2013, Przybyl received a double lung transplant, and Michele credits that with giving the father and son more time together.
"They loved to fish together. They did a tournament together that was one of their favorite times," she said. "He has all these memories that he wouldn't have had if he had not had that transplant. And he gets to actually remember his dad."
Three months after his death, Kevin's name now adorns every fire truck at his former company, the Bowmansville Fire Department.
"It means Kevin is riding with us," said Bowmansville Fire Chief Tom Trzepacz. "Just to know that he's got our back - it gives us a little extra confidence when we go out to help somebody."
The average life expectancy of someone living with Cystic Fibrosis is about 37-years-old. Michele says the couple always knew their time together was limited, so they made the best of every minute.
"Looking back, we had almost 15 years together. A lot of people don't have that. So I just feel blessed I got to spend that time with him," she said.