Saturday, March 29, 2008

Newspaper column

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.



amrlion said...

his body is changing the lives of new recipients, even now, a year later, with enough left to help 50-70 others:

~rita @ said...

What an inspiring column! I have been an organ donor for years (does that make sense?). It always makes me feel good to see the pink sticker on the back of my license. My family is also aware of my preferences - just in case my driver's license can't be found by hospital staff at the crucial time.

Thanks for sharing.


Lori :-) said...

I read your column in the paper this morning, and wanted to respond.


My drivers' license also bears that designation, all because of a person just like Jason...

Back in October 1993, my aunt received a much needed heart transplant because someone else decided to make this same decision. This coming October will mark my aunt's 15th "Second Birthday" as we refer to it. Without their gift, we may not have been able to spend these years with her. It truly is a great gift, and a priceless one. I always had the same thoughts about wondering if the doctors would work as hard to save me in place of saving perhaps many others. After having a family member get a new lease on life, your perspective changes. I'd like to think that after I am gone, some good can come of it, and I can pass on the gift that our family received. And I hope that they can know something about me, and my aunt.

Blueskitten said...

THANK YOU for posting this! As a woman living with Cystic Fibrosis, I may someday be one of those in need of donor lungs. I personally know three CF patients who died waiting, but I also know another CF woman who just recently had a double lung transplant and has a new lease on life.

Thank you for becoming an organ donor!

chelsea said...

I remember the SportsCenter special last year on him, and had the recipents meet his parents.

Anonymous said...

I share your "fear" of dr.s working harder to GET my organs than to save me...where did you find the info to put your fears at ease? I'd like to look more into this issue as well. Thanks for the post

cafechick80 said...

Thats a great story. Thank you for sharing. I checked that box the first time I ever got my drivers license. :) I think it's amazing (and yes, sometimes a little bit scary to think about) what they can do for people in situations like this.

Kate said...

Thanks for this. I am a longtime reader and a current Tar Heel. It was both a pleasant surprise and a saddening reminder to see Jason here. UNC has had its share of sadness in the last 12 months, so it is nice to be reminded of silver linings.

Sarah said...

I have been an organ donor since I got my license. I think it's so important to figure that stuff out now so your family isn't burdened with making the decision for you. Great post!

Anonymous said...

i have read your blog since you were at xanga. never have i been so shocked to see such a blog. jason was my friend and his family is still very dear to me. his death was so difficult to understand but i am so glad that he has had an impact on you and everyone else. jason really was an inspiration... in life and in death.

Ray said...

Great, column. I'm sure everyone who gets your newspaper loved reading it.

I'm not an organ donor. I've thought about it only once or twice, and just in a fleeting moment. Nothing that I pondered over and over again. But now this entry gets me thinking, "Will I ever become one?"

I realize that if I don't that makes me incredibly selfish. I mean when we die our bodies disintegrate (obviously). And it's not doing anyone, any good six feet underground in a box. And yet I'd like to have my organs inside of me when I go. Maybe it's because I'm still young. That and the thought of dying doesn't concern me (although there are some nights when I'd wonder how I'd die. Morbid maybe, but that's just me), even though you can die at any age.

So though I have yet to know if I'll ever become an organ donor, "I know how HEROIC of a choice it is." And I know that it's an awesome thing. It's awesome because: even though you're dead, a part of you lives on inside of someone else. And when that person passes on, maybe that organ that you gave to them will go on to someone else, and so forth. So it's like a part of you could live on for decades. An incredible thing. I guess you could call it, "human organs being recycled."

Great of you to be one of those people who are organ donors. I loved that you wrote that maybe you decided to do it because you're a new mom. I loved that, and it's very true how different a perspective you have on things, when you have your own little one.

Take, care.

P.S. I loved how you put his picture up. It's both heartbreaking and sweet. <3

Ray said...

OH and:

"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."

^^ That thought never occurred to me, but it's a normal worry. I'd like to think that a doctor would want to save your life, until your last breathe. Regardless of those in need of an organ. If they're a good doctor I guess and really care about the patient.

Plus, who wants a death at their hands when: if they had done their best, he/or she could have prevented it (if that's what GOD wanted as well)? Also, I don't think their main worry/thought at that moment is, "Oh what about those who would benefit from this person's organs? Maybe I should just give up." That and everyone's life is important.

*Or maybe for once I'm just being too optimistic.*

Epros said...

I made the decision to be an organ donor ever since I could select it on my permit (or license, I can't remember which).

The only thing that I said that I couldn't donate were my eyes, because they're already in such bad condition.

kelly said...


I don't remember the exact sites I got the information from, but here's what I found:

1. The emergency team that is working to save you would not be the same team that would take your organs after you've been stabilized and your family has been notified. And, ultimately, it is your family's decision, so it's important that they know about your wishes.

2. I also worried that I wouldn't really be dead and that they would just take what they needed. On the contrary, if they're going to take organs, they check even more to ensure that you're gone.

Hope that helps!