CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) ─ When Justin Larsen passed out behind the wheel of his car and hit a pole, doctors told him something he never expected to hear in his entire life.
Complications from diabetes had caused kidney failure, and the 36-year-old needed a transplant.
“It was hard to hear,” Larsen said.
Also hard to hear for his cousin Ashley Tartarian, who he says is more like a sister to him.
“He was pretty sad and pretty upset and there’s definitely a lot of depression for a 36-year old, who’s dying,” Tartarian said.
Tartarian recalled watching her cousin deal with diabetes since they were children.
“I remember my aunt would poke his finger,” Tartarian said. “Check his glucose levels and then give him his insulin. It was hard for him, but he’s a fighter.”
That fight got harder fast.
“He went downhill pretty quickly to the point where he couldn’t even walk,” Tartarian said.
Fast forward to a recent rainy day that sent Larsen under a tent for a parade of friends in front of his home.
He tried to leave until his mother let him know it was for him.
“I actually tried to leave earlier,” Larsen said. “My mother kind of yelled at me for it. She hid my keys so I could not leave.”
He did think it was odd that his cousin wasn’t in the line of cars, but she did show up eventually with a smile a secret.
“It was the hardest secret I’ve ever had to keep,” Tartarian said. “Slowly watching my cousin become sicker and sicker and it was just weighing pretty heavy on my heart.”
As she approached from a side street, Larsen had no idea his cousin had gone through a series of tests that started in February.
“I was kind of wondering why she was walking,” Larsen said. “Instead of just driving up to the house.”
That brings us to her life saving secret, which was finally confirmed last week.
“I’m your match,” Tartarian said as she hugged her cousin.
The next step is the actual transplant, once Larsen is fully cleared by doctors. The cousins are hoping that will happen as early as August.