One woman's plea for a liver donor seemed close to impossible until her message made its way to a perfect stranger, who ultimately became her perfect match.
Melinda Ray, a 35-year-old wife and mother of three from Colorado, was dying from a genetic disease that was rapidly destroying her liver.
"We had just had candidate after candidate being ruled out, and symptoms were progressing. They were progressing fast," her husband James Ray told ABC News. "The days were getting harder."
She put her plea on Facebook, where it spread to relatives, friends and eventually complete strangers.
Robin Ihnfeldt heard about Melinda Ray's condition through her friend over the summer and she told her husband, Jeff. Without hesitating, Jeff Bramstedt, a 47-year-old former Navy SEAL from San Diego, California, said, “I’d do it.”
“He’s always been an amazing man,” Robin Ihnfeldt said. “He hears bullets and he runs into these situations.”
Bramstedt, now a skydiving instructor and Hollywood stuntman, turned out to be a match and agreed to the 10-hour transplant surgery. Doctors at UCHealth (University of Colorado Hospital) warned him this could be risky.
Chief of transplant surgery Dr. Elizabeth Pomfret said she told Bramstedt, "There’s a lot of things that can go wrong, including the risk of dying."
he didn't hesitate and traveled over 1,000 miles from California to UCH in Aurora, Colo., where the surgical teams successfully transplanted 60 percent of his liver to Ray. The liver can regenerate itself.
After going through the surgery, doctors joked with Bramstedt that it would be 10 weeks before he could jump out of an airplane again, but he said he has gained something important through the experience.
"I feel that I have a little sister now. We literally share DNA at this point,” he said of new bond with Ray. "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.”
Bramstedt says he hopes other healthy veterans will consider volunteering to make a transplant for someone who needs it.