An Iraq veteran in desperate need of a kidney transplant has a new lease on life, thanks to the dying wish of a fellow Marine who asked for his organs to be donated to members of the military.
Without this intervention, Sgt. Jacob Chadwick of San Marcos, Calif., could have been on a transplant waiting list for five years or longer -- time he did not have to spare.
Chadwick had never met 2nd Lt. Patrick Wayland, who suffered heart failure Aug. 1 during survival training at Florida's Pensacola Naval Air Station. He was pronounced brain dead on Aug. 6, and Wayland's family asked his doctors to accomodate his request to have his organs given to military recipients in the event of his untimely death.
"I've seen some remarkable stories, and this is an incredible story," UC San Diego Medical Center transplant coordinator Tina Kress told The North County Times.
"What's incredible is that someone on the other side of the country had heard about this case. One of the surgeons in the hospital Googled 'Marine needs kidney' and came upon Jacob's story."
Jacob's wife Victoria used her connections with Operation Gratitude, a nonprofit organization supporting service men and women overseas where she had volunteered when her husband was stationed, to spread the word that her husband was desperately seeking a kidney donor with type O blood.
Although many potential donors were identified, none were a match. But the surgeon was able to find Chadwick's story via the Internet search, and immediately informed Wayland's parents, who agreed without hesitation to give him their son's kidney.
"It takes about five years in San Diego for an O blood type (transplant), so he was very lucky to receive it so quickly," Kress said.
"We had people from all over the country step up," the surgeon continued. "Many were tied to the military, relatives of Marines, current Marines, ex-Marines. We were working on the list of donors when we got the call about a donor from Florida. They asked specifically for the kidney to go to Jacob."
While Wayland's parents grieve the loss of their son, they are grateful that his dying wish aided another Marine.
"This isn't the miracle we were praying for," said David Wayland, Patrick's father, in a note made public by the U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Association last week.
"But Patrick removed the burden of impossible decisions as his last gift to us."
Chadwick's doctors do not know exactly why his kidneys failed. He began having symptoms shorty after returning from Iraq, and was diagnosed was kidney failure in January -- the same day his wife went into labor with their first child, a daughter.
"It's a gift," Chadwick told the North County Times. "The fact that it was another Marine and it was a direct donation to me, the fact that they found me and they wanted it to go to me, really said something about his parents."
"If I wasn't a Marine, I'd probably be waiting six years for a transplant," he added.