For most of 2017, Melinda Ray, a 35-year-old wife and mother of three, began suffering from a very rare genetic disorder.
The disorder was degenerating her liver at a rapid pace, and her days began to feel numbered. Even after searching for donors, it seemed that every candidate they found somehow was not a match for her.
“We had just had candidate after candidate being ruled out, and symptoms were progressing. They were progressing fast,” her husband James Ray said. “The days were getting harder.”
Soon, Melinda grew desperate, and took to Facebook to plead for her life with anyone who saw her post.
“I have a plea,” she wrote,” if you have room in your heart to make a difference for someone, even if you don’t know me, as a mother, a daughter, an auntie a friend, you could save my life.”
You will never be forgotten,” she continued, “you’ll forever hold a special place in our hearts and we will pray for you always. I will be sure to update you as often or as little as you like. Please help me.”
Melinda’s story spread like wildfire, but the story was flooded with responses of regret as people were unable to help her.
That was, until Melinda’s sister’s friend, Robin Ihnfeldt, heard her story and told her husband Jeff Bramstedt about it.
A former Navy Seal, the 47-year-old’s response came as no surprise to his wife. “I think I probably considered it for all of half a second before I said, ‘I’m up let’s do this,'” Jeff said.
“He’s always been an amazing man,” Ihnfeldt said. “He hears bullets and he runs into these situations.”
Sure enough, the current skydiving instructor and stunt man was a match for Melinda. He immediately agreed to the risky 10-hour surgery and flew to Colorado for the transplant.
During the surgery, doctors would remove 60% of Jeff’s liver. By 10 weeks post-op, his liver would have regenerated and he would be clear to return to his job.
The operation was a success, and aside from a new liver, Melinda has a new appreciation for life and humanity.
“It gave me really great hope, and humanity, and hope that I could be a mom and a wife, because that’s something I wasn’t sure was going to happen through the year,” Melinda said.
“And just the fact that someone would put their life on hold for me and stop their life and save mine, you know, it meant everything to me,” she continued.
Jeff also said he gained a lot more from the experience than he could have ever imagined.
“I feel that I have a little sister now,” he said. “We literally share DNA at this point. She gets extended years, she gets to raise her kids, to be the mother that she’s always wanted to be and live out life with her husband.”
The Ray family has remained close with Jeff and his family, send one another Christmas cards, and visit one another often.
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