RICHMOND (WTVR) - Know any 21 year-olds who voluntarily spend time talking to hospital patients?
Know any who have lost a mother at a young age?
Know any who drive fast, for a living?
You might know someone that fits into one or two of these categories, but Joey Gase represents all three. The native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa is in Richmond for this weekend's Nationwide Series race at RIR and spent time at Henrico Doctor's Hospital visiting with transplant patients. While all NASCAR drivers pledge loyalty to their sponsors, Gase lives for his and hopes that others will live because of his.
Gase lost his mother three years ago to a brain aneurysm. "I kept waiting for the doctors to tell me 'She's going to be ok, it's going to get better'" Gase said.
"Sometimes, unfortunately, that's not the fact"
Because his mother was relatively healthy otherwise, she made a perfect candidate to be an organ donor. Through family and medical efforts, she was able to help 66 other people, some of whom would not be alive were it not for the decision Joey and his mother made previously. A decision he is hoping others will make by becoming organ donors themselves.
"It's good for all the recipients, obviously, but it also helps the family" Gase explained. "It helped my family knowing that my mother was able to make a big impact in all these people's lives."
Gase got to meet one of the people that was saved by his mother's donation. A race fan from Omaha, Nebraska who has joined Gase in appearances and races throughout the Midwest.
"That was an amazing experience, knowing that a piece of my mom was living on through him" Gase said. "Being able to meet him and his family and seeing how thankful they were....it helps that he's an awesome guy too!"
Gase is making hospital appearances in every race city where his car is sporting the "Donate Life" campaign, meeting with transplant patients who have directly benefited. His main goal, besides winning races, is to raise awareness about what's involved in being an organ donor.
"A lot of people don't even know they are donors" said Dr. Kenneth Brown, a transplant surgeon with the Virginia Transplant Center. "They sign up at the DMV and they forget. It's very important that, periodically we celebrate and remember to get the word out."
"We need people to sit down with their families beforehand, so if they ever come into a situation like I did, that decision is already made" Gase said.
"There's over 120,000 people on the [organ] wait list and unfortunately, it's growing instead of shrinking." Gase explained.
"That's not right. We've gotta fix that."
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