Ellen DeGeneres Features Firefighter With ALS on Her Show: Watch His Emotional Story

Five-hankie alert! Ellen DeGeneres took some time out of her show on Friday, Oct. 3, to honor two very special guests, former firefighter Matt Onyshko and his wife, Jessica. The comedienne received several emails about the couple from fans, so she invited them across the country to tell their story.

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Matt was diagnosed with ALS seven years ago, about one year after he became a firefighter in Pittsburgh, Pa. Three years ago, his condition worsened to the point where he could no longer work — so his buddies at the firehouse banded together and took over his shifts, ensuring he’d still get a paycheck to help support his family. (He and Jess have two young daughters.)

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“Guys were working five extra shifts, I mean, just anywhere possible,” pal Bill Frisco said. “We were fighting to take the extra days.”

Others in the firehouse called Matt their hero, saying that being around him had made them better people. “What Matt’s doing today, what Matt did yesterday, what Matt’s gonna do tomorrow…that’s a favorite memory right there,” Captain Ron Bartolowits said, choking up. “It’s heroic. He’s an inspiration.”

Matt Onyshko and Ellen DeGeneres
Michael Rozman/Warner Bros

Both Matt and Jess fought back tears as they talked about the support and love they’d received from his former colleagues. “We’ve been very lucky,” Jess said. “We’re very grateful for the City of Pittsburgh Fire Department and all that they’ve done and continue to do for us.”

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“You make a choice to either have fun or be in pain,” Matt added. “We really have nothing to complain about.”

Watch the video above to see how DeGeneres surprised the couple on her show (and be sure to have a few extra tissues on hand)!

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