A 3-year-old Superior, Wisconsin, boy and his 22-year-old cousin are more than just family.
Two years ago, Brett Beattie saved young Jackson Beattie's life. Jackson was born with a chronic kidney disease that affected his kidney development, and after attempts to find a matching donor, Brett Beattie, who was a match, donated his kidney to his then 1-year-old cousin.
"It's pretty cool that you can give one (kidney) away and still be fine," Brett Beattie told KARE 11 at the time of the transplant. "[Jackson] hasn't had a chance at life and I'd do anything for him."
The cousins are doing great – Jackson is growing and playing and Brett recently graduated from Iowa State University and now works as a civil engineer in the Twin Cities, according to the Duluth News Tribune. And last week, they, along with their families, got to take a special rail journey with people who have gone through the same thing.
The Beatties were among 13 organ donors/recipients onboard a two-day rail journey through the Rocky Mountains in Canada on behalf of the Rocky Mountaineer, a North American rail tour company, according to the company's website. Some of the people aboard the train were organ recipients meeting their donors for the first time, the Duluth News Tribune says.
The tour, which made stops in Kamloops, British Columbia, and at Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada, was part of the Life Changing Train for Heroes, which recognizes heroes and their families. Last year, military veterans and wounded soldiers were invited aboard the train.
The only other contingent of people from the United States on the train was Olympic-medalist Chris Klug, who won the bronze medal in the 2002 Olympics, just 18 months after receiving a liver transplant. Klug created a foundation to promote organ and issue donation and worked with Rocky Mountaineer to bring awareness for the need for organ donors, according to Klug's website.
The scenery was beautiful, and the Beatties called it a wonderful experience, but raising awareness for organ donation was also important to them. One goal for the heroes train was to get 5,000 people to sign up for organ donations, Dave Beattie, Jackson's father, told the Duluth News Tribune.
Jackson's chronic kidney disease means he'll likely need another transplant in his lifetime – the average lifespan of a transplanted kidney is five to 30 years, Dave Beattie told the newspaper.
Organ donation facts
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and a survey commissioned by Rocky Mountaineer:
- In the U.S., 18 people die every day waiting for a transplant.
- Every 10 minutes another person is added to the organ transplant waiting list.
- There are currently 123,000 Americans waiting for an organ.
- One organ and tissue donor can save up to eight lives, and benefit more than 75 people.
- 82 percent of Americans say they'd be more likely to donate their organs if they knew who they would go to.