Donation Offers Breath of Life

Jason wasn't supposed to see his first birthday. Here he is celebrating his 30th.

Jason wasn’t supposed to see his first birthday. Here he is celebrating his 30th.

Diagnosed at birth with cystic fibrosis — a disease that critically affects the lungs — Jason Wiltfang was expected to live two weeks. He is 33 today, thanks to organ donation.

Jason beat the early odds to live a relatively normal childhood, taking part in active sports like baseball and wrestling. But as he reached his mid-20s, his health declined, and he was placed on the lung transplant waiting list. In November 2011, his family received the call that a possible donor was available. At the hospital “the doctor came in to tell us that the lungs were a match,” recalls his sister, Kristina.

After the transplant, Jason was able to go bowling again, attend family get-togethers and go places with friends. “We were overjoyed but devastated for the family of the donor because that could have been us — we could have lost someone we love,” Kristina says.

Jason and his family as the prep for his lung transplant.

Jason and his family as the prep for his lung transplant.

In July 2013, Jason again was rushed to the hospital. His transplanted lungs had given him all the new life they could, and he needed another transplant. “We hoped and prayed every night for a new donor match for Jason,” Kristina says. “At the same time we felt bad for the loss that had to come.”

Months passed, and Jason’s body started to give up. Even worse, he began to lose hope. “My husband and I went to visit him,” Kristina says. “As I was leaving, I thought that was it. I thought I was saying goodbye to my best friend for good.”

Two days later, the family was called to the hospital. A lung donor had been found. “The best part of the day was seeing the huge smile on Jason’s face and his will to fight restored,” Kristina says.

Jason shortly after his transplant.

Jason shortly after his transplant.

Jason received his transplant and today is recovering and beating all odds against him, his sister says. “Imagine lying in that hospital bed, day in and day out, waiting to take your last breath. Now imagine being able to get out of it after seven months. Because of organ donation, my hero will be able to do that soon.”

Organ donation is a true gift of life and a large benefactor in Jason’s life, Kristina says. “That is why I’m an Advocates for Hope volunteer for Gift of Hope, and I hope to have my brother get involved with me as soon as he is able.”

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