Melinda Ray, a 35-year-old wife and mother from Colorado, was dying from a liver disease, until a former Navy SEAL responded her Facebook plea and gave a part of the vital organ.
Earlier this year, Melinda was not sure she would make it to 2018. A polycystic kidney disease that spread to her liver deteriorated the woman’s health gravely.
She and her husband, James Ray, were desperately looking for a transplant.
“We had candidate after candidate being ruled out, and symptoms were progressing fast,” James told ABC News. “The days were getting harder.”
When all hope were abandoned, Ray put her message to Facebook in September 2017. The post engaged friends, relatives and complete strangers. This was Melinda’s last-ditch call for help.
It eventually reached Robin Ihnfeldt, who was a friend of Melinda’s sister. She told her husband, Jeff Bramstedt, about the situation. With no hesitation, 47-year-old Hollywood stuntman and former Navy SEAL responded: “I’ll do it”.
Robin was not surprised by his reaction. As she later described her husband to ABC News, “He’s always been an amazing man. He hears bullets and he runs into these situations.”
“It took me literally two seconds to make a decision,” Jeff told PEOPLE. “It just wasn’t okay with me that somebody was going to die.”
Jeff his wife both agreed to go through tests to find out if they were matches. Though Robin did not qualify, Jeff appeared to be just a perfect donor.
I feel that I have a little sister now. We literally share DNA at this point
He agreed to undergo a surgery to give Melinda 30 percent of his liver. Doctors of UCHealth University of Colorado warned him about risks.
“There’s a lot of things that can go wrong,” Dr. Elizabeth Pomfret told Bramstedt. “Including the risk of dying.” Jeff was still up to this.
In December 2017, Bramstedt traveled from California to UCH in Aurora, Colorado. The transplantation was successful.
Surgeons joked that Jeff would probably have to wait 10 weeks before he could jump of an airplane again.
Bramstedt says he has gained something extremely important from this experience — a new bond with a person he saved:
“I feel that I have a little sister now. We literally share DNA at this point.”
When Melinda is speaking about what Jeff did, she can barely hold her tears back:
“Just the fact that someone would put their life on a hold for me and save mine means everything”.
Jeff himself just hopes he could be an example:
“An average guy can step up and be a hero to somebody whose life is going to end. Hopefully, we can make my and Melinda’s story not so extraordinary.”
Featured image: Jeff Bramstedt/ABC News