We hear the word ‘hero’ applied every day to people who serve in the military, to firefighters and police officers and to ordinary people who risk their lives to do extraordinary things. This is a story about a different kind of heroism.
On December 7, 2014, Jason ‘Jay’ Czoschke, a 41 year old husband and father of two beautiful children, was in a tragic accident. He was flown to Theda Clark Medical Center via ThedaStar medical helicopter. The trauma doctors there determined that Jay had suffered severe trauma to both his back and head. Despite the best efforts of the doctors and nurses at Theda Clark, Jay’s injuries were too severe for them to save his life. The next day, December 8th, Jay was pronounced legally brain dead.
The following is what makes Jay an Everyday hero.
One month prior to his accident, Jay had signed up to be an organ donor. Through the shock, disbelief and unimaginable grief of his death, both Jay’s wife and parents made the difficult decision to honor his wishes and donate his organs.
Because of Jay’s age and good health he was considered “the perfect donor.” The first priority was finding a match for his brave, strong heart and other major organs. The word went out and within two days surgical teams from UW Madison and Rush University Medical Center in Chicago flew in medical teams to harvest his organs and give five other people a chance for a longer life.
Within hours, Jay’s heart was beating again in an Illinois man; a kidney and pancreas were transplanted into a 38 year old man from Wisconsin; as well as Jay’s liver had gone to an individual also in Wisconsin. Both Jay’s lungs were given to a 43 year old Wisconsin man who had battled cystic fibrosis his entire life. Jay’s other kidney was transplanted to an Illinois recipient who had been on the waiting list since 2009.
Because of Jay and his family, these men can lead healthier more active lives. To them and their families, Jay is a hero.
The list of donations goes beyond the major organs. The doctor’s harvested both Jay’s corneas, his anterior cruciate ligaments, his tendons, as well as bone and skin for future patients.
Dr. Davis Tsai, Jay’s brother-in-law, says, “In Orthopedics, we see both ends of the spectrum. I care for those who succumb to severe injuries and I also care for those who benefit from the sacrifices of musculoskeletal donations. It is through the generous organ donations of people like Jay that I can help many patients achieve a better and more functional quality of life.”
Stephanie Tsai, Jay’s sister, still has a difficult time talking about him. She is proud of her brother for signing up to be an organ donor and awed by the courage it took for his wife to honor his wishes. Through her tears and loss, Stephanie says, “I highly encourage everyone to be an organ donor. Jay is gone, but through his organ donation five other people have a chance at a better life. It helps make the pain bearable to know that Jay lives on through these people.”
This is a story of one man’s simple decision to be an organ donor and one family’s decision to honor those wishes. Today, five people are alive because of Jay’s unselfish decision.
And that’s our definition of a hero.