New on the Wall of Life: Dave’s Story

Dave went to the dentist for something more annoying than serious: a cracked tooth. He had no idea that was the start of his journey to becoming a tissue recipient.

In his FiftyLives Wall of Life story about what happened, Dave wrote:

I went to the dentist because of a cracked tooth, and found out I couldn’t get a crown because I had severe bone loss in my upper jaw and back molar. He sent me to an oral surgeon who explained that as the bone regresses in my upper jaw, the sinus cavity would drop. The damaged tooth had to be removed and replaced with a dental implant.

Read his entire story on the Wall of Life page.

Has tissue donation affected your life or someone you know? If so, we invite you to share your story here.

J.R. Martinez: Tissue Recipient, Hero, Dancer

Dream big. Never quit. Stay positive. Just six little words. But to tissue recipient J.R. Martinez, these are anything but “little” words. They are words to live by — words he lives by daily.

J.R. Martinez is famous for playing Brot Monroe on the former All My Children ABC daytime drama and is currently in the spotlight for his cool moves on the 13th season of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. J.R. has wowed the audience, judges, and viewers of this popular competition not only with his fancy footwork, but also in how he approaches every situation with a positive outlook.

J.R. describes himself as a son, a soldier, and a survivor. It was during his time as a soldier that the man who inspires everyone he comes into contact with emerged out of the trauma and pain he suffered.

In 2003, while a soldier in the U.S. Army serving in Iraq, J.R. drove over a land mine in his Army Humvee. He suffered smoke inhalation damage to his lungs and was severely burned over 40% of his body. When it happened, he was in a great deal of pain and saw no future. “I honestly thought it would be better if I hadn’t survived the accident,” he said. J.R. spent 34 months in recovery at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, where he underwent 33 different surgeries, including skin grafts made possible by tissue donation.

He was deeply depressed and uncertain about his future, but he made a key decision: “I made a choice that I was going to get through every single day. And the answer would come to me, and it did.” That answer came when he was asked by a nurse to speak to another burn patient. He helped that patient change their outlook and discovered his calling in life – to help others.

“The way I see it, I was given second chance, and not a lot of people get a second chance in life … so I want people to understand certain things that I’ve learned in a second chance on how to make their first chance that much more meaningful”.

Be sure to watch J.R. strut his stuff tonight (8 p.m.) and tomorrow night (9 p.m.) live on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. The competition is getting intense, but we have a feeling J.R. can make it to the top!

What Caregivers Should Know About Tissue Donation

A caregiver has to wear many hats during the course of just a single day. It can be a tremendously rewarding and tiring responsibility.

At some point in your journey as a caregiver, you’ll have to make decisions for your loved one–perhaps as simple as deciding what type of food they can eat or as difficult as determining whether they want to be a tissue or organ donor.

In those difficult situations, knowing beforehand what your loved one’s wishes are can ease a very stressful time in your life. While your loved ones are healthy and vibrant, it’s important to have meaningful conversations with them about their hopes and wishes.

While it may feel uncomfortable, this includes their wishes regarding end-of-life decisions. Having this conversation and knowing your loved one’s preferences in advance will ease the process. When it comes down the wire, you won’t wonder if you’ve made the right decision.

If you’re unable to have that conversation with your loved one, you can reflect on your loved one when they were vibrant and healthy. Think back: Was he/she a giving and helpful person? Someone who wanted to make a difference in the life of others? Answering “yes” to these questions might provide you with the answer you’re looking for when asked to make a decision about a loved one who has not expressed their donor wishes prior to their death.

Sometimes people think they or their loved ones can’t be donors because of an illness or family history. Let health care professionals determine this for you. Most people, regardless of age or illness, can donate.

The gift of life by being a donor can provide the donor family a path to healing during a time of terrible grief. It will give you something positive to hang on to during a painful time. It will give you comfort in the moment and for years to come.