Lisa Salters told Jason's story on ESPN's show E:60—and its power transcended even beyond those who received his organs.
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."
Dr. Oz believes there is no greater gift than becoming an organ donor. "I spent my whole life trying to learn how to do transplants, and I had all this technology and all these gifts from people around us that could help others survive," he says. "Then we realized what holds us back is we don't have enough organs."
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."
Lakshmi Tatma now looks like a normal girl living in a small village in India, but the struggles she has faced in her two years of life have made her a medical miracle.
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.
Three months after the groundbreaking surgery, Dr. Oz spoke with Lakshmi's
doctors to get an update on her recovery. "She's very lucky because all of her
key organs were inside of her, with the exception of an extra kidney she needed
to take from the parasitic twin," Dr. Oz says.
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."
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