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Department of Surgery News Archive

January 2018

Former Navy SEAL saves mother of three

Jeff Bramstedt, liver donor, with Melinda Ray, recipient

Jeff Bramstedt is no stranger to danger. Having served as a Navy SEAL for 13 years, he works as a movie stuntman and skydive instructor in California. But the risk he took this past year, at the age of 47, was something different.

Through his wife, Jeff learned about Melinda Ray, a Colorado woman facing a life-threatening health crisis. (Jeff's wife is a close friend of Melinda's sister.) Although Jeff had never met Melinda, he was immediately moved by her story and wanted to help. Melinda has polycycstic kidney disease, and when the cysts spread to her liver, her health rapidly deteriorated. Her husband and three children were desperately worried, and a liver donation seemed to be her only hope at survival.

Jeff and his wife both got tested. As it turned out, his wife was not able to be a donor, but Jeff was. He was excited to move ahead, and his wife was supportive.

Around Thanksgiving, Jeff met Melinda and her husband for the first time. He says he felt an instant connection with the two of them. All the pre-operative preparations went smoothly, and on December 4, Dr. Elizabeth Pomfret led the surgeries at University of Colorado Hospital. Jeff gave 30 percent of his liver to Melinda. (His liver will eventually regenerate to full size.) Now Melinda is regaining her strength and can look forward to a new life with her family.

Read more in People Magazine online, ABC News, and UCHealth Today.