Melinda Ray was suffering from a genetic disease that was quickly destroying her liver. She had been trying to find a donor, but no one was working out. Her husband James told ABC News, "We had just had candidate after candidate being ruled out, and symptoms were progressing. They were progressing fast. The days were getting harder."
She was becoming increasingly desperate, unsure of how she would carry on. The mother of three made one last appeal to her Facebook friends, asking them to consider getting tested to be a match. All of her friends and family passed along her message, until one day a complete stranger saw the post.
Robin Ihnfeldt was friends with Melinda's sister and she heard that Ray was unable to find a donor. She told her husband, Jeff Bramstedt, about Ray's trouble and without hesitating he volunteered his own liver.
The former Navy SEAL's wife said, “He’s always been an amazing man. He hears bullets and he runs into these situations.”
The doctors warned him that it would be risky. "There’s a lot of things that can go wrong, including the risk of dying," Dr. Elizabeth Pomfret said. He had a lot to consider, but it didn't take him long to make his choice...
"I think I probably considered it for all of half a second before I said, 'I’m up let’s do this,'" Bramstedt said.
He travelled over 1,000 miles to meet up with the surgical transplant team. They were planning on taking 60% of his liver to give to Ray as the liver will be able to regenerate from that. He was told that it would be 10 weeks before he could return to work as a skydiving instructor and stuntman, but he still didn't give up.
"I feel that I have a little sister now. We literally share DNA at this point,” he said. "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.”
He hopes that other people will consider doing the same. “You’re going to change someone’s life,” he said. “It could be the difference between life and death for somebody."
Bramstedt was touched by the card he received from Ray's children. It said "your dad is my hero" inside, along with a little drawing of a happy liver.
Melinda Ray is recovering now, and is touched by his generosity. "It gave me really great hope, and humanity, and hope that I could be a mom and a wife, because that’s something I wasn’t sure was going to happen through the year," Melinda Ray said. “And just the fact that someone would put their life on hold for me and stop their life and save mine, you know, it meant everything to me."