Temple, TX — Often organ donor recipients never get to meet the family of those who have helped them, and of course it’s even rarer for recipients to have actually met the donor themselves.
The kidney and pancreatic transplant program at Baylor Scott & White in Temple recently completed operation on its 500th patient.
But in this case, both donor and recipient go way back.
Caleb Tate, a 20-year-old Aggie Cadet, died from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident in October. Before his parents could even mourn, they were being asked about organ donation- an inconvenience at the time according to Caleb's father Robert.
"There’s a selfish moment where you’re like, ‘I don’t want to think about that. I want to bury my dead, and take my son and go home," said Tate.
Meanwhile, gospel singer Johnny Ray Watson, a family friend of more than 30 years, was in need of a kidney.
Caleb had previously told his mom, Darlene, that he wanted to give Johnny Ray a kidney. But with Caleb's military aspirations, he couldn’t.
However, Caleb’s death changed all that.
The match between he and Watson was a long shot, but as fate would have it, they were compatible.
Johnny Ray was given Caleb’s kidney just 48 hours later.
The transplant was successful, and less than a week later, Johnny Ray was completely healthy.
“I guarantee you Caleb had a strong kidney because I’ve been going to the restroom a whole lot recently," said a chuckling Watson.
Robert and Johnny Ray are now doing all they can to promote organ donation.
From his eyes to his heart, Caleb’s organs have helped out more than 30 people.
Watson said, “I’ve got a lot of singing to do this Christmas season, and I guarantee you I’ll be looking up at heaven and thanking god for sending Caleb to me and giving me the gift of life."