Teen organ recipient spends birthday paying forward

(KGO)
April 25, 2012 10:59:29 PM PDT
An Oakland teenager celebrated his birthday in a very special way Wednesday. He received the gift of life through an organ transplant four years ago and now, he's giving back.

"God gave me a second chance to live, so I'm going to take advantage of it and live my life to the fullest," said Michael Caraway. That's why Wednesday's birthday celebration for 15-year old "Mikey" was not about cake, ice cream, and candles.

Four years ago, his liver failed and doctors had two weeks to find an organ donor or he would die. His mother Shaheda faced the thought of losing a child, but she kept the faith. "I always knew that Michael would make it. I never had any doubt. Some people call me crazy. Some people say it's my faith. I believe it's my faith in God. I totally knew that Michael would make it," she told ABC7.

Two days later, Mikey had a new liver. The donor was 18-year-old Johnny Hernandez who suffered a fatal brain injury in a motorcycle crash. Mikey and his mother carry his picture with them to every feeding to tell their organ donation story and to promote awareness. "After my son received his liver transplant, it just made me feel different about life in general. So, that's why we give," Shaheda said.

They give through their organization called "Mikey's Meals," a non-profit organization that feeds the less fortunate in their home city of Oakland. "At each and every one of our feeds, we promote donor awareness. Michael received a liver. We never in a million years thought that he would need a liver," Shaheda said.

Mikey's classmates at McLymonds High School know his story and they don't treat him any differently. They joke and laugh with him and they still treat him to birthday punches. On Wednesday, he'd receive 15 of them. "They don't try to be my friend just because they feel sorry for me. They be my friend because I'm me," Michael said.

If you ask him what he would like for his birthday, he says it's for people to remember one thing. "You have the power to donate," he said.

To register as an organ donor you have to be at least 18 years of age, but Mikey wanted to remind everyone that paying it forward and donating time to others can start at any age.

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