Parents meet son's lung transplant recipient - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Parents meet son's lung transplant recipient

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PHOENIX (KSAZ) - There are 2,400 people in Arizona waiting for an organ transplant. A 64-year-old man from Deer Valley was taken off that list in 2012 when he received a set of lungs.

He spent time Friday with the family of a man who saved his life.

Nothing can replace the loss of a child, but this family they say knowing he improved someone else's life eases the pain. That donor's mom traveled all the way from Alaska to meet the man her son saved.

They hold hands like they've known each other for years, but Bobby La Salle just met the man who's breathing with her son Raymond's lungs.

"That was just part of his wanting to help people all the time, and caring and empathy for others, and it's a wonderful thing," said La Salle.

31-year-old Raymond died in June of 2012 during a seizure following surgery. That same week, Thomas Robins learned that his own life may have ended soon.

"I was driving down the road after hearing this, I got a phone call, it was my son, and he told me that his wife was pregnant with their first child the same day I found out I was going to die," he said.

Without Raymond's lungs, Thomas would have lost his battle against idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. "If he didn't receive a transplant it would be a matter of less than a year, he wouldn't have made it," said Dr. Rajat Walia.

St Joseph's already has an exceptional average wait time for a lung transplant of only 45 days, but once Thomas was on the list, he only had to wait 3 days.

"His surgery went well as you can see, he's recovered amazingly, his new lungs are working well for him," said Dr. Jasmine Huang.

"My opinion is Raymond's still alive," said Robins.

As Thomas got to know his donor's family, he learned about an unexpected connection. "He was very athletic; he loved winter sports, downhill skiing, cross country skiing, kayaking, things like that," said Ray Boyd.

Raymond had a mental handicap, and spent years competing in the Special Olympics. It turns out that Thomas was a Special Olympics counselor for more than 20 years.

"This was one of Raymond's medals he won," said Robins as she gave Thomas a medal from the 100-meter freestyle.

"I've always been drawn to helping people the best way I could, but I never had a medal until now," said Robins.

Thomas gave Bobby something in return when they met, a sketch of her son that he drew by hand. A small token of gratitude for what Thomas calls, "The Greatest Gift."

"I almost died, now I have a life, so I'm not gonna waste a moment," he said.


Raymond's donation also provided someone a kidney, gave two people their vision, and helped burn patients. The average donor can enhance up to eight lives.
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