I'd like to introduce you to someone who may not change my life but certainly could affect the outcome of it.
His name is Jason Ray. As a 21-year-old honor student at the University of North Carolina, he became known on campus as the mascot for the school's basketball team.
A year ago this week, Jason was in New Jersey for a game. A few hours before it started, he was walking along the side of a highway on his way to get something to eat when he was hit by a car. Jason was rushed to a hospital with severe head trauma and doctors told his parents there was no sign of brain activity.
Three days later, March 26, 2007, Jason was pronounced dead -- but more than just his memory lives on today.
Jason had opted to become an organ donor.
He helped save the lives of three people waiting to receive transplants. Jason's heart went to 58-year-old Ron, who was suffering from congestive heart failure. One of his kidneys and his pancreas went to 40-year-old David, who had struggled with diabetes for more than two decades. Jason's other kidney went to 15-year-old Antwan, who was living with one failing kidney at the time.
Not long after, a reporter told Jason's story on ESPN and it spread around the nation as other networks followed suit. Because of that, Jason has likely saved countless others as more and more people realize the importance of becoming an organ donor through his example.
People like me.
I guess I hadn't ever given it much thought. And when I did, I had irrational fears that doctors would opt to spare the lives of others rather than do their very best to save me.
Jason's story inspired me to do some research on the subject. Not only were my worries completely unfounded, but I discovered a disheartening statistic: Of the nearly 100,000 Americans currently on a list for transplants, almost half of them die waiting. Even worse? Only a small portion of the people who could donate actually do.
Those facts sat with me for awhile. I found myself thinking about it whenever my mind wandered.
I suddenly realized how important it is to give the gift of life to someone who needs it if I'm ever in a position to do so. Maybe it's because I'm a new mom and have a renewed appreciation for life, but I know if any of my loved ones ever needed a transplant, I would be praying for a miracle.
Strangely enough, a day or so after learning of Jason's story, a reminder came in the mail that I needed to renew my driver's license. It was almost as if someone was trying to send me a message.
I heard it loud and clear.
The process was easy. It was a simple click on a key pad at the DMV and my new license printed out with the words "organ donor" in green.
Granted, I hope I'm never in a situation where someone else could use my organs more than me, but if that day comes, it would be a little something good out of a terrible situation.
And if you've been inspired by Jason Ray's story?
Feel free to introduce him to someone else, too.