“At the end of the day, I’m just the dude with a liver,” says California man who donated organ to mom of three.
Thirty-five-year-old Colorado mom of three Melinda Ray was dying of a genetic liver condition, and the only hope of saving her life was a liver transplant.
Unlike most major organs, the liver can regenerate itself — so a living person can be a donor. The human body is pretty incredible, isn’t it?
The screening process for prospective donors is arduous, though. As with any organ donation, the donor and the recipient have to be a perfect match. But when a live donor is involved, there are extra precautions taken to ensure the donor is physically strong enough to handle the recovery.
The Rays were desperate to find a donor. As candidate after candidate fell out, Melinda’s condition worsened.
Then, 47-year-old former Navy SEAL Jeff Bramstedt heard about Melinda’s need.
Bramstedt, who lives in San Diego, had never met Melinda Ray, but there was a connection. His wife Robin is a close friend of Melinda’s sister, and when he learned that Melinda needed a liver, he offered up his own.
That’s right. This husband, father, veteran, and businessman (Bramstedt owns a successful skydiving company and is also a Hollywood stuntman) raised his hand and volunteered to give up a portion of one of his vital organs to a woman he’d never met. Just let that sink in.
While the word “hero” comes to mind, Bramstedt is quick to correct anyone who labels his actions as heroic.
“This isn’t a hero move,” said Bramstedt in an interview with Babble. “It’s just not okay with me if someone is going to die and someone else sits on their hands. If someone is going to die, we do something about it.”
He credits his SEAL training with this “service before self” type of mindset. “People from the SEAL community run toward confrontation, not away from it,” he explains. “It’s who we are as people … if you have something inside of you to do something about it, then you do it.”
“He’s always been an amazing man,” Jeff’s wife Robin told ABC News. “He hears bullets and he runs into these situations.”
The transplant surgery that took place almost a month ago was a success, and today, both Ray and Bramstedt are doing fine. Thanks to her new liver, Ray will now have a normal life expectancy. She gets to continue being a wife and a mom. She gets to hug her babies and experience their milestones without the threat of a serious illness to make the future uncertain.
I talked to Jeff Bramstedt about his experience as a liver donor for almost 30 minutes, and he was quick to shine the light on everyone else around him. First, there was his surgeon, Dr. Elizabeth Pomfret, as well as her husband, who is “doing amazing things in the world of liver transplants.” He also praised his coworker, who had absolutely no connection whatsoever to Melinda Ray, for agreeing to step in for Bramstedt in the event he didn’t make it through the medical screening process. (Yes, you read that right. Someone who had absolutely no connection to this Colorado mom who needed a liver was willing to be next in line in the event his boss couldn’t donate his liver.)
“That’s just the kind of people I hang out with,” says Bramstedt. “When you add this to the transplant team … it’s such an honor to be a part of this team. It’s definitely a team sport and at the end of the day, I’m just the dude with a liver.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, Bramstedt says the real hero is Melinda Ray, the woman he now refers to as “his little sister.”
“That whole family is amazing,” says Bramstedt. “She puts everyone before her, in my opinion she is a hero who needed a hand for a minute.”
Bramstedt also says he hopes more healthy veterans will step up and become liver donors. Although any healthy person can be a liver donor, Bramstedt would like more veterans to become aware of these programs.
“If you go to a vet, they’re going to do what they’ve gotta do for whoever needs it.”
Bramstedt is recovering nicely and in his own words, he’s “tired but bouncing back.”
And while he may be just another dude with a liver, he’s also a dude who made it possible for three children in Colorado to have their mama.
h/t: ABC News