Amazing Medical Miracles
Kevin had suffered a catastrophic spinal injury—one of the worst in recent football history. He couldn't feel his body from the neck down. As team medical officials rushed to his side, Kevin couldn't move and struggled to breathe.
When the team doctors were able to roll Kevin over, Dr. Cappuccino says he saw Kevin's eyes for the first time. "I saw fear. … I have six children of my own, I have four sons, and I'm looking down at this kid, and he's no older than my boys," he says. "My heart sank."
On their way to the hospital, Dr. Cappuccino told Kevin to concentrate on breathing while he started treatment, which included a controversial procedure called "cold therapy." To keep Kevin's spinal cord alive, doctors flushed cold water through his blood in an effort to keep the swelling down.
After getting X-rays at the hospital, Dr. Cappuccino's worst fears were proven. Kevin had suffered a fracture dislocation between the third and fourth cervical vertebrae. "This was a bad spinal problem," Dr. Cappuccino says. "I thought, statistically he was at this point by definition looking at what's called an ASIA B spinal cord injury. Statistically, there's between a 10 and 20 percent that those folks will go on to be able to walk. Not so good."
The cold therapy that Dr. Cappuccino used on Kevin, Dr. Oz says, used the same medical concept you'd use when you put ice on a sprained ankle. "What they did was they put a few of these nerves that hold his head and his feet together, and they nursed it through," Dr. Oz says. "The cord, because it was in a cold case, didn't have to use up extra energy, and it didn't get swollen as much. This is still an experiment; it's how science advances—we talk to the family honestly and say, 'We want to do this because we think the risks are worth it for the benefits we'll get.'"
Dr. Cappuccino says he was concerned about what the repercussions could have been if cold therapy had not worked. "It goes through your head, if I do this and it blows up in my face, I really could be in a lot of trouble here. We could lose everything. But at some point, you have to put those things aside and focus on the job at hand," Dr. Cappuccino says. "[I took] the advice of my wife, who said, 'Use your conscience. If you use your conscience and do your best, you'll never go wrong.' And it worked out that way."
To get to the point of walking, Kevin has gone through months of grueling rehabilitation at Houston's Memorial Hermann hospital with the help of a team of doctors, occupational therapists like Rafferty Laredo, and his mom, Patricia. "Ever since I was a kid, she's been taking care of me. Whenever I was sick, she was there, just nursing me up," Kevin says. "When this happened, she just went into full force."
Kevin says he remembers the moment when he was injured—he couldn't move or feel his body and could barely breathe. "The first thing that entered my mind was my family, how scared they were just seeing me lying on the ground like that," he says. "That was the main thing on my mind."
Kevin says he actually tried to stand up after the collision. "I was trying to be a tough guy, trying to get up, thinking it was just a stinger or something like that," he says. "But it was the real deal. Me being paralyzed had entered my mind. I didn't want to accept it at the time, so I tried to get up but couldn't—not at all."
He says he hopes how far he's come can give others hope. "Seeing how hopeless [other spinal cord injury patients] are at times, and being able to talk to them, and being some inspiration to them is just a great feeling," he says. "It keeps me going every day."
Domenik says after that play, he was no longer the same player as before. "I was hesitating, not playing football the way I thought I could," he says. "I was just holding back."
He even suffered from nightmares. "The nightmares I had were of the situation turned around," Domenik says. "I was running down and running into somebody and being in Kevin's position."
As Kevin progressed in physical rehabilitation, Domenik says he was able to recover as well. "When I first heard that he was walking and doing well, that just made me feel a little better," he says. "I'm just going to keep on praying for him."
Kevin has a message for Domenik, too. "Don't worry, I'm doing well. I'm glad to see you're doing better, too. I'm very happy that you made that change [to a Super Bowl team]," Kevin says. "You lucked up there!"
Jason was rushed to a New Jersey hospital with severe head trauma. His parents, Charlotte and Emmitt, hurried from North Carolina to be with their son, but doctors told them there was no sign of brain activity. "His head was really swollen," Charlotte says. "He had his eyes shut, and his hands were just laying there. I picked them up, and they were warm. I just couldn't let go of his hand."
Three days after the accident, Jason was pronounced dead—but the impact he would have on other people's lives had just begun.
As Jason lay in the hospital with head injuries, a representative from an organ transplant unit approached Emmitt about donating Jason's organs. "I was thinking everything except sharing his organs with anybody at that point," Emmitt says.
When Jason passed away and it was time to make the final decision, Charlotte and Emmitt chose to honor their son's wishes. "I wouldn't change my mind, because I knew he wanted it," Charlotte says.
Fifty-eight-year-old Ronald, who was suffering from congestive heart failure, received Jason's heart. Forty-year-old David had coped with diabetes for 25 years and dialysis for nine when he received one of Jason's kidneys and his pancreas. Jason's other kidney went to Antwan, a 15-year-old boy who was living with only one failing kidney at the time.
Ronald shows his gratitude for Charlotte and Emmitt and the gift of life their son gave to him. "I'm thrilled and delighted to be a part of Jason's legacy. I'm a testimony to God's mercy and grace," Ronald says. "This was God's plan, and I'm grateful."
David Wielhouwer says when he first got his driver's license, his brother, Dan, told him it was a great idea to be an organ donor. "He said, 'When you die, you can't take your body with you, but you can help someone else,'" David says.
When David saw the report about Jason on ESPN, he called Dan to tell him to watch it. Two weeks later, 39-year-old Dan passed away in his sleep. "My last conversation with my brother was about Jason Ray," David says. "My brother was so adamant about me being a donor when I was a kid. So Dan watched the show, and we talked the next day. He was inspired by the show as well."
David says Dan's wife, Christa, first told the family that his tissue, organs and eyes would be donated. The family wondered if they were making the right decision—then David remembered Jason's story. "Giving the gift of life is such a great thing, and it's an inspiration to everybody," he says. "What you do on earth can live forever."
David and Dan's father, Daniel Sr., says he and his wife, Deanna, are organ donors, and they encouraged their sons to do the same. Daniel Sr. says he is proud of Jason's parents and their decision. "We just appreciate you giving this opportunity that life could go on and that everybody has that chance," he says. "Eventually, we'll have eternal life in heaven and be with our son."
According to Dr. Oz, there are about 100,000 people in America waiting for an organ transplant. "During the course of this show, someone has already died while waiting for an organ," he says. "Only about half of the people that could donate really donate."
Some people choose not to become organ donors because of concern that the doctors will not take as good care of them, Dr. Oz says. "The fact is, the team taking care of you medically is different from the team that takes your organs, so they don't actually cross over," he says. "The other big myth that always hurts us is that folks say, 'Are they going to declare me dead too early?' It's the exact opposite. We're going to really make sure you're dead if we're going to use your organs."
To make sure your wishes to become a donor are known and carried out, Dr. Oz says you should tell your family and loved ones, in addition to marking your donor status on your driver's license. "Tell the people who you love that you really feel passionately about your desire to give the gift of life," he says. "Tell someone today that you care, because you might not know if two weeks later … you'll have to make a difficult decision."
When Lakshmi was born, she had four arms and four legs. Her extra limbs actually belonged to her parasitic twin, a sibling born without a head and attached to Lakshmi at the pelvis.
The parasitic twin caused Lakshmi to become malnourished. Doctors said that without an operation to separate them, Lakshmi would not live to adulthood. "That body was living on her and making her sick," Dr. Oz says. "You get prone to the kinds of infections that ultimately cost you your life."
In November 2007, about 36 doctors and medical staff worked for 27 hours to remove Lakshmi's twin. They separated the two spines, removed the parasitic twin's kidney and transplanted it into Lakshmi. The pelvis was split apart and reconstructed so it could support Lakshmi's organs. Finally, doctors removed the extra arms and legs.
The doctors told Dr. Oz they still need to fix Lakshmi's club feet and perform orthopedic procedures to fix her hip. "She's actually starting to stand. If she can do that, one day she'll probably walk," Dr. Oz says. "It's pretty impressive. She'll probably even be able to have kids, which is really remarkable, a testament to the great job they did."
Lakshmi's surgery took an incredibly coordinated effort by medical professionals with different specialties. "Medical teams don't always play well together," Dr. Oz says. "Orthopedic people, people who are good at intestines, people who are good at kidneys, people who are good at the spine—they all had to work together."