You may be familiar with NASCAR driver Joey Gase’s passion to not only educate the community about organ, eye, and tissue donation but also honor those affected by it. This weekend Gase is partnering with Donate Life Virginia to continue his passion as he heads to Richmond, Virginia for a Friday night showdown at Richmond Raceway. This will be the 7th year Gase has partnered with DLV when he has traveled to the area. “I’m excited to have Donate Life Virginia on board with us again this weekend. They are a great partner of ours but most importantly they do a GREAT job of raising awareness for donation and honoring all of those affected by it,” said Gase.
This weekend you will find a special passenger on Gase’s car, Zachary Kelly who became an organ, eye, and tissue donor at the age of 17 after passing away of a tragic car accident. His mother, Melanie Kelly, recalls the day she took Zack to get his learner’s permit when he was 15 years old. She wanted Zack to really think about why he was signing up to become a registered organ donor before he checked the box. Without hesitation, he said, “Mom, if I can help someone else live then I will. And don’t you leave me on a machine.” Zack was further motivated to become a registered donor after a classmate received a heart transplant in middle school telling Melanie, “Mom, somebody saved Julia’s life. I want to do that.” The morning of December 5, 2017, Melanie received the call every mother hopes they never will receive. An emergency room nurse was calling to tell her Zack had been in a horrible car accident and would need emergency surgery. She rushed to the hospital to learn Zack had a head injury with a subdural hematoma and shift of his brain, skull fracture, tear in his aorta and collapsed left heart ventricle, a punctured lung, and broken ribs and bones. “I knew that his chances (of survival) were slim to none,” said Melanie. “When they took me to his bedside I laid over him and just prayed for the Lord’s will to be done. I cried until I almost threw up.” Zack underwent nine hours of surgery. Sadly, the neurosurgeons told Melanie they did everything they could for him, but the brain damage was beyond repair. “We simply wailed. My only child,” she said. But Melanie asked about Zack’s heart and the doctors said it never stopped beating despite all the damage to it. It was comforting to her to know that because Zack always wore his heart on sleeve. “I’m still not sure how it fit because it was bigger than the world,” she said. The following day, Zack was declared brain dead. The boy, who wanted to save someone’s life if he could when he was 15-years-old, went on to save and heal many people through his gifts of life. Zack’s heart, liver, kidneys, corneas and tissues were donated. His heart had been miraculously healed and there was no evidence of the tear and the ventricle was fully functioning.
Zack’s picture will be placed on the TV panel of Gase’s #35 Camry this weekend. The Kelly family will join Joey and his team at the track Friday evening for the Go Bowling 250.
About Donate Life Virginia:
Donate Life Virginia is the state registry for organ, eye and tissue donation. We are a coalition of organizations from all over the Commonwealth dedicated to educating Virginians about organ donation.
Donate Life Virginia serves to save the lives of Virginians by working to increase the number of registered donors in the Commonwealth while promoting organ, eye and tissue donation and transplantation.
Donate Life Virginia maintains the Virginia Donor Registry. This registry and the supporting Public Awareness Fund were established in 2009.