Sparks Of Insanity By Vinny "Bond" Marini Friday, October 19, 2007

DON'T MISS OUT ON THE BIG CELEBRATION!!!How To Get Your Peace Globe November 2007

We just realized that someone from THE NJ SHARING NETWORK, found this post on THE COUCH and many of their people have stopped by to read (38 hits just from their main ISP)...Go visit them...a great organization they are! Find them HERE

Do you know...

Jason Ray was a head-strong boy. It is said he went through Sunday school teachers like no one else, and he always probed his teachers for more and more answers to his multitude of questions.

When he decided to go to the University of North Carolina, there was one thing he wanted to do and that was put on the costume of the school’s mascot Rameses. When the try-out judges told Jason there were no rules and prove he deserved to wear the uniform, he climbed into the furry white and blue suit and the head worn by so many others and ended up on South Road, the two lane street that cuts through the campus, stopping all traffic, climbing on cars and getting the assembled students to begin a back and forth chant of “TAR” answered by “HEELS”. The job was his and Jason found a new way to express himself.

His parents were childhood sweethearts, but went their separate ways and each had their own families. Some 25-years later they reunited and had one child, Jason. Headstrong? That was Jason. The story is told that during a spanking from his dad Emmitt one day, Jason screamed “That does not hurt.” Emmit’s response? “Who said I was done?”

Jason took missionary trips to Haiti and Honduras that would cause him to come home shaken and crying from all he had seen. He began each day at UNC with a prayer session with a few of his friends. All in all a special kid.

In Somerset, NJ Ronald Griffin was a 58 year old, 13-year survivor of congestive heart failure and cardiomyopathy. He survived with the help of an eight-pound machine strapped to his stomach, pumping his heart with the rhythmic, deafening beat of a bass drum called a left ventricle assist device, or LVAD.

"If I rolled over in bed, it felt like I had run a marathon," he says.

He couldn't move. He couldn't speak. What he wanted to say, he wrote on paper. Despite lengthy pauses between every bite, eating was nearly impossible. But perhaps worst of all, he couldn't comfortably hug his wife, his two children or his grandchildren. "Our granddaughter Maiya ran up and jumped on him one day and this look of fear just came over his eyes," says Ronald's wife, Stephanie. "She could have killed him."

Jason Ray once walked into a session Pastor Jeff Oakes was teaching to a group of teenagers and sat down about 3” from Jeff’s face. "He was always testing people," Oakes says. "I've never known another kid to be so distracting to a classroom environment. If you weren't 'on,' he could tear apart the entire classroom in a second."

Jason was always noticed. At 6’5” and 220 pounds it was not hard to notice the kid who was in-your-face, fun-loving, and so outgoing. Besides the morning prayers with friends, he also led a Friday morning Bible study for older men and on Tuesday nights he was a student leader for InterVarsity, a campus mission.

In Toms River, NJ lived Dennis Korzelius. He was suffering from cirrhosis of the liver as well as end-stage liver failure caused by hepatitis C. At best, the doctors told him, he had eight months. This man who two months earlier had married the woman he had waited a lifetime for.
Dennis had lived the life of a partier and had brought on to himself his current situation. He had met Pattie and they fell in love and with their children from previous marriages wanted to have a new life together. It did not seem possible at this point.

They did not have good medical insurance and Dennis would not be on the donor list unless they could prove they could pay the $30,000.00 in post operative costs and medications. The health community suggested divorce so Dennis could go on Medicare. And lose Pattie, no way!

Medicare suggested bankruptcy which would mean losing their home and then they might qualify. But where would they raise their family. A friend donated $15,000.00 anonymously and they raised the rest of the money needed and Dennis was put on the list.

Jason Ray was also a teenager. Jason loved his beer. So much so that he kept a journal and rated all the beers he tasted. At one of the bars he frequented in Chapel Hill, he also led a bible study class! The leaders of InterVarsity put a stop to that.

Jason also loved to smoke his cigars and pull pranks like the night he lit a package of firecrackers and slid them under a friend’s dorm room door, then ran and hid in his room when the police and fire came.

Brown Walters, the North Carolina cheerleading coach, remembers the day Jason introduced himself on a bus ride to Wake Forest. Ninety minutes after leaving Chapel Hill, the bus pulled into Winston-Salem and the two were still engrossed in conversation. "We were talking like we had known each other for years," Walters says. "And that's the way he was -- with everybody. Whether it was the first time he had met you or you were his lifelong best friend, he treated you with such warmth. I simply haven't known many people like that. The world is not that way."

This passage is from one of the mini-journals Jason always carried around campus and jotted notes in:
"Is it possible to have a healthy fear of death? Since Adam, all but two people have passed away.
It's an inevitable end. People must see death,
for ignoring it is simply lying to yourself.
There are two ways to look at it:
1.) people acknowledge death and live toward it.
2.) people choose to ignore death and distance themselves away from it."

Though he had enough credits to graduate last December, there was no way Jason Ray was going to leave campus early; wanting to graduate with his friends and be on the sidelines as Rameses when NC won the national men’s basketball championship.

Antwan Hunter was a normal high school student in Newark, NJ. Shortly after he was born he lost his left kidney. He was healthy after that, or so he and his mom Latisha thought. There was one problem, he constantly wet his bed. Finally the the family doctor sent him to a kidney expert.

Antwan’s creatinine levels were all off and after tests were done they were amazed. Someone with one kidney should have a level of 1.8. Antwan’s was 4.2. The doctor’s warned if it got to 5.0, he would die. He needed a new kidney, and he needed one soon.

Jason Ray had job offers coming in, he was about to graduate with honors, the world was his oyster. On top of that, he began dating Madison and had told mom and dad she ‘might be the one’.

Jason also played in a band called Nine PM Traffic and the band decided to make a full-time commitment to making it in the music business. Jason and his dad discussed this at length and Jason decided to turn down the job offer in Boston and take the one in Raleigh so he could be close and the band could practice after work and play the local clubs.

"I went up to bed that night and Charlotte says to me, 'How did it go? Did you talk him out of it?' " Emmitt recalls. "And I told her, 'Honey, I had to come up here and go to bed because your son was starting to convince me that this was a good idea. It was all starting to make too much sense.' "

In March, just before the NCAA Tournament began, Jason laid down the vocal tracks for the band’s demo CD. The first single was called “My Ordinary”…a taste of the lyrics:
“A car crash grabs your attention. The white flags fly for protection. A heartbeat is a window of opportunity … “

In Millstone, NJ David Erving had fought a battle against diabetes for 27 years. He had lost his right eye and much of the vision in his left. His bones were so brittle that walking down the stairs one day, his left leg snapped and never healed correctly leaving him with a curve at his shin so severe his left leg was 3” shorter then his right.

He had spent the last 10 years receiving dialysis for 4 hours each day recycling his blood 87 times each day and leaving his arms covered in scars from the needles. His skin was so disfigured even plastic surgeons told him they could not help.

In 1997 he was told he could not be a donor recipient for the kidney and pancreas that he desperately needed. The doctors said he would not survive the operation.

In 2004 he tried again at another hospital and this time he was approved but told he would only be put on the list if he had the remaining 22 teeth in his mouth extracted.

You see David has so many cavities the doctor’s were afraid of infection after the transplant. Out went the rest of David’s teeth.

The UNC Tar Heels Basketball team was staying in Fort Lee, NJ. Route 4 is a busy highway that runs through NJ right past the Fort Lee Hilton. That Friday evening, March 23rd, the Tar Heels would be playing USC in the Sweet 16 at the Meadowlands. That afternoon, Jason walked down the road to the gas station nearby to get some soda and a burrito.

Jason probably never saw the Mercury Mountaineer that hit him as he walked and tossed his body like a rag doll. The result was a cracked skull and catastrophic brain injury. He was in a coma. A life-support machine was the only thing keeping him alive.

When his parents finally arrived in NJ, in a trance-like state, the doctor told them that he had never seen anyone survive the injuries their son had sustained.

That night Jason’s Tar Heels beat USC, but their mascot was not on the court with them. On Sunday his mom, Charlotte, touched his face and felt something move. Madison saw him lift his shoulder and whispered to him to do it again, and she saw it move again. His fever was down, had God intervened and was going to show the world a miracle? They ran to get a nurse…

Later that day, it was confirmed after a battery of tests, the movement was involuntary reflexes, there was absolutely no brain activity.

A transplant nurse from the Sharing Network, Stephanie Falbo, was standing at the nurse’s station that day. The Sharing Network was always called whenever there was a patient with no brain activity, whether they were a donor or not. As she flipped though Jason’s charts she noticed a little red heart on a photocopy of his license. "What's this?" she asked one of the nurses.

"It means he was an organ donor," the nurse explained. "In North Carolina, that's how they identify a donor on their license."

Falbo's eyes began to water. "I was just blown away," she says. "What an unbelievable decision that this young man made to sign his donor card. I couldn't stop thinking about how brave he was."

Falbo met with Emmitt and explained who she was and reminded him of Jason’s commitment to be a donor. What she did not know was, the day Jason came home and told his parents, his mom questioned his decision and told him that she and his dad believed you left with what you came into the world with.

Jason had told her that day, in his normal head-strong fashion, that it made no sense to bury a good heart if it could help another person. That day, Charlotte could not come up with an argument for her son…

Falbo asked for permission to maintain Jason’s blood pressure, stabilize his temperature and keep he and his organs alive on the ventilator when the time came.

"She was talking about my son's organs like they were a used carburetor on a '62 Chevrolet," Emmitt says. "I had to stop her. I just didn't want to hear about it."

Falbo understood. "He kept saying he wanted to take Jason home, he wanted to take Jason home," Falbo says. "And what father wouldn't feel that way? But this was about doing the right thing. This was about following Jason's wishes."

That night the road to the Final Four ended for UNC and the team was now coming to grips with the loss of their friend.

At 8:38 AM on Monday, March 26, Jason Kendall Ray was pronounced dead. Shortly thereafter Emmitt signed the release allowing the New Jersey Sharing Network to recover Jason's organs. He thought long and hard about not signing the form, but said he knew if he went against his son's wishes, "Jason would have come back and haunted me."

So he signed his name on that paper -- with one stipulation: Emmitt asked Falbo to go into surgery with his son, to ensure his body would be treated with dignity.

"Emmitt said to me, 'This is my boy,' " Falbo recalls. " 'Please take care of him.' And as a nurse, when a father tells me to take care of their child, I'm going to do that. Because the gift that Jason gave, there is no greater gift."

Fifty miles away Ronald Griffin was informed that there was a heart available. A strong heart that would fit his 6-foot-3 body and matched his blood type. With the help of the nurse and his wife he made his way to the bathroom in the hospital room that had been his home for over three months and he stood there, all alone, and cried.

As he headed for surgery, Ronald's doctor told him he couldn't have drawn up a more perfect heart. "If I were you," the doctor said, "I'd be a Carolina fan."

That same day at 4 AM Dennis Korzelius answered the phone and was told to get to the University of Medicine and Dentistry in Newark, NJ. He was second on the list for a liver that had become available. He and Pattie rushed to the hospital and were soon told that the liver had come one day to late for the patient in front of him and he would be the recipient.

Later that night Latisha Hunter answered her phone and heard the words that would make any mother cry…a kidney was available to help save her son’s life. Antwan panicked, "I was scared," Antwan remembers. "I told my mom, 'I don't want to do it tomorrow. I feel fine.' "

But his mother told him he didn't have a choice. So shortly before 6 a.m. Tuesday, they headed for Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, where doctors explained everything that was going to happen that day.

"We didn't tell him somebody had to die for this," Latisha says. "He didn't know."

In the same hospital doctors prepared David Erving for his surgery. The kidney and pancreas he so desperately needed was available. He had gotten a call at 6 AM telling him to be ready. The call came at 10:30. Problem was he did not drive, nor did his mother so they had to call an ambulance to get him there in the hour time frame he was given.

By 6:00 PM Tuesday, it was all over.

Less than 48 hours after Jason had died, four people had new lives. Think of the circumstances around this. What if the Tar Heels had lost in the first or second round game? What if they had been seeded in another region? Jason may have been alive today, but four people from four different walks of life might not be walking the earth.

The amazing part of this story is, normally the recipients never learn about the donor.

Ronald Griffin was watching TV a few days afterward and BAM! It hit him like a 2” x 4”…he had heard about the horrific accident…then the doctor’s words came back to him ‘if I were you I would be a Carolina fan…”

On the TV were clips from Jason’s memorial service, held on the campus of UNC…2,500 people snaked along a line 6 hours long, all to view Jason’s body and honor this wonderful friend and fellow student.

"I was numb," Ronald says. "I mean, I knew it was Jason's heart, and I couldn't believe I was looking at his picture on TV. I was glad that I had gotten a heart, but he was just a kid. He was 21 years old, younger than my daughter. I had so many mixed emotions. I didn't think I could ever be happy again."

Another fluke in this story…the day after Dennis’ transplant, Pattie was handed a stack of papers that she was told were her’s. They were not. They were Jason’s transplant paperwork. Pattie had the name of the person who’s life ended giving her husband his back.

"If I could, I would give it back to him in a heartbeat," Dennis says. "I knew I was dying. I had come to terms with it. Jason had no idea. And to me, that's not fair. What makes me any more special than him? I was just simply not all right with the thought that somebody had to die for this."

Dennis told the story of his donor to a friend who writes for the Atlantic City Press. In the story his daughter is quoted as saying she hoped Jason had ‘lived a happy life’.

The story was picked up by other newspapers and Emmitt Ray saw the story and reached out to the Korzelius family to confirm that, yes Jason had lived ‘one heck of a life’.

Shortly after, the Ray’s traveled back to NJ to meet the four men whose lives had been touched by their son’s generosity.

Ronald, Dennis, Charlotte, Emmitt, David & Antwan

Emmitt had recently met a two-time double-lung transplant recipient who told him about the challenges she faced accepting the fact two people had to die for her to live. Knowing his son and the love he had for people, Emmitt couldn't bear the thought of anyone struggling to accept Jason's gift. So when the Sharing Network approached the Rays asking if they would be interested in meeting the recipients, they said yes.

As Emmitt began sharing his story about the woman he met in Chapel Hill and how he was here to make sure Jason's recipients weren't burdened by similar feelings, Dennis finally spoke up. "You mean I'm not the only one?" he asked.
"No," Emmitt told him.
"No," Ronald said.

Later that night, Emmitt pulled Dennis aside, explaining the last thing Jason would want would be for him to feel guilty. "Jason lived his life to the fullest," Emmitt said. "Dennis, now it's your turn."

Antwan told Charlotte that doctors had decided to let him play basketball and he was excited to try out for his school team this season.

"You make sure you e-mail or call me as soon as you find out if you made it," Charlotte said. "I gotta know."

This story goes on and on…
  • The tributes mailed to the Ray’s that take up 12 huge photo albums in their home.
  • The six hours of spoken words they heard the day of the memorial service as they stood outside the church afterward and people filed past and spoke simple sentences about their son and how he had touched their life.
  • The Fort Lee Police Department has yet to issue a statement on the case, saying their investigation is still ‘ongoing’ and no charges have been filed to this day.
  • The Jason Kendall Ray Foundation has been started by Charlotte and Emmitt with the goal of endowing a scholarship at UNC and raising money for missionary trips ad other Christian-based efforts.
Emmitt and Charlotte have another family now, the four men who walk around today with parts of Jason inside them.

Because of Jason's decision, five children have their fathers back. Four mothers have their sons back. As many as 75 others benefited from tissue donation -- such as a new cornea or a new ACL.

"Forget the fact that Jason was my son," Emmitt says. "Every time I turn around, I learn more and more about the effect he had on this world. And as time goes by, I realize how lucky I was to have even known such a man."

Now you know….

We did a post recently that touched on the need for everyone who can to mark their license and become a donor. You can read it for the first time, or view it again HERE.

Within the post are links to organizations for you to contact.

This story was recently telecast on the new ESPN show “E:60”.

This post used material seen on that show and also the story as written online by Wayne Drehs is a senior writer for

We also found material on, and which helped us to tell this story.

The photos used here are property of the Ray family or Jason Veleas and Rob Tringali for ESPN and we hope they do not mind their use, so that we could share the story of this amazing man with a wider audience.

30 Of Your Sparks

  1. Wow.

    I'm...speechless. I know these stories are out there, and you think you know how they'll end and how you'll feel, but...


    I'm already an organ donor, and while the only cure for my disease is a double lung/heart transplant, I'm not sick enough for that. I pray that others will see that their organs do so much more wonderful work here on earth than "in the ground" with the deceased.

  2. Lizza Says:
  3. What a moving story. Absolutely amazing how such acts of generosity transform other people's lives and leave lasting legacies.

  4. katherine. Says:
  5. nicely done. What a blessing for those parents to get to meet the men whose lives were saved by their son's selfless donation. tugs on my heartstrings for sure.

  6. Peg Says:
  7. Wow...I did not know...but am so glad that now I do.

    Great write up, Vinny, and thank you for sharing a touching example of how far-reaching the gift of organ donation can truly be. When I got my driver's license here in NH, I opted to have my license show my status as an organ donor. My feeling is, once I'm gone, I don't need this stuff any more...if it can help even one person--it's worth it.

    Thanks, Vinny, and have a great weekend!

  8. Anndi Says:
  9. I'll have to come back, this post is LOOOONG...

    What will I liten to as I read this?


  10. SONGBIRD: I was blown away when I saw this story and then searched for more information. I cried as i wrote it up and then reread it before posting. I pray that if your time comes, there are enough people out there with the desire to be a donor that wour need will be stisfied.

    LIZZA: These four men yes, but then I think of the 71 other people who received other other donations not needed to save their loves, but improve them.

    KATHERINE: ty na yes, I can not imagine the pain of losing a child - horrific pain - but Jason's selfless donation would surely ease that pain slightly.

    PEG: TY...Again...I was so blown away when I saw this on TV I knew I had to share it immediately.
    Enjoy your weekend also Peg

    ANNDI: Please do come back and this one we left music could fit this story. HUGS

  11. Twyla Says:
  12. Oh Bond...making me cry so early in the day. What an amazing story. I'm already an organ donor. I have been for over 10 years. I've often thought the same thing...why bury perfectly good organs?

  13. TWYLA: Sorry for the tears...but it could not be helped...Excellent news on your being a donor. I have had my donor card in my wallet for about that long.

  14. AtriaBooks Says:
  15. That was a tremendous piece of writing and story telling and an amazing story.

    Thank you.

  16. Ok I am bawling my head off at work. Thank you so much for sharing this tremendous young man's story and what an amazingly well written post. I am and always have been an organ donor as well as a blood donor. Reading this I have never been more confident or happy with that decision. Well done and thank you for sharing this. Jason deserves to be remembered for his life.

  17. Tug Says:
  18. You, my friend, have left me speechless.


  19. Tug Says:
  20. oops...P.S. I'm a donor. ;-)

  21. DOC: TY Sir...If you get a chance to watch the program on ESPN or it's web site, do it...very emotional, but wonderfully told.

    STARRLIGHT: When I saw the show I knew I had to share it here...I am now registered with the Bone Marrow Network also. Jason was a special man, no doubt.

    TUG: No, Jason left you speechless, I just introduced you to him...and TY for being a donor...

  22. Schmoop Says:
  23. I dont know why people even give organ donation a second thought. If I can be taken apart and put to good use when I die so be it. Cheers V-Man!!

  24. MATT-MAN: Agree one billion percent my friend...enjoy your weekend...

  25. Gail Says:
  26. A beautiful story. Thank you for sharing this. It proves that there is love to be had by all...

  27. Beth Says:
  28. What a touching story. If I had anything worth saving I wouldn't hesitate donating.

  29. Travis Cody Says:
  30. Great story my friend.

  31. Meribah Says:
  32. Wow. This is!

  33. Come see me Oh Couchy One, I have swag and blogger lovin's for you =)

  34. OBLadyBug Says:
  35. What a movig story. Thanks for reminding us we all can make a difference.

  36. Sparky Duck Says:
  37. Being a Dukie, even I could appreciate this story. I have organ donor on my drivers license and I think I could share most everything but my liver.

    I am a duke fan, but I went to the University of Delaware, Top 5 baby in party schools.

  38. SCHMOOP: I am sure you have plenty worth saving...make sure your license tells the world

    TRAVIS: TY my friend...When I saw it on ESPN I knew I had to share

    MERI: TY my friend

    STARR: I am on my way

    OHLADY: TY for sitting on THE COUCH and I am so glad you came today

    SOARKY: LOL it really does not matter who we are... it matters what we do....

  39. Julie Says:
  40. Oh my....that it most assuredly something to read when you think that you can't make a difference.

    Wonderfully put together dear Vinny.

  41. Anndi Says:
  42. Both Chicklet and I are donors... What better way to make sense of loss?

    Why do I now feel like I have to find a piece of music to set this to?

    Maybe feature his band... they do have a website.... and they carry on. Life goes on...

    as it should.

  43. Mimi Lenox Says:
  44. What an incredible story, Bond. You weaved it well. Jason was a remarkable young man with many layers of maturity. Isn't it odd that sometimes people like that have a sense that they won't lead long lives? He had the spiritual sense and a zest for life - a tribute I'm sure to his wonderful parents.

    One of your best posts and one I will read again. Inspirational. I do carry that little heart on my driver's license.

    What makes this story special also... I am a huge Carolina fan.
    Thanks for introducing us to Jason.

  45. JULIE: SO glad you enjoyed...It felt wonderful to write

    ANNDI: No better way my better way. The band's myspace is now linked...wish I had thought of that! HUGS

    MIMI: Thanks for the kind words...and it was my pleasure to introduce you to Jason...How can you not be a Carolina fan thinking of him.

  46. RW Says:
  47. Very touching storys Bond thanks for posting them!

  48. Anndi Says:
  49. 'Bout time I came back... you need an editor.

  50. ROGER: Glad to have done it

    ANNDI: I have offered you the job before...


Music On The Couch