NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – At 7 years old, Branden Reyes had a heck of a swing on the putting greens. The Frisco, Texas boy had a big personality to match.
“We always had to say Branden keep it down,” his dad, Paul Reyes said.
In 2016, feeling sick after lunch, Branden went down for a nap. The parents thought nothing of it until he woke up with searing pain in his head.
“Out of a deep sleep, he woke up screaming,” Paul recalls.
As a pediatrician, Paul recognized the symptoms. But this wasn’t a patient, it was his son. They rushed him to the hospital.
Branden died of brain aneurysm.
GIFT OF LIFE
Thirty-five miles away in Trophy Club, Texas, Madeline Smith’s family got the call.
“9:00 p.m, I remember the time,” her mom Jessica Smith recalls.
Maddie needed an organ transplant. She was battling rare metabolic disorder which affects the liver and kidney. Just tow years ago, her kidneys had failed. She spent 3 days a week plugged into a dialysis machine, 2 to 3 hours each day.
“I had to sit still–I couldn’t stand up or go anywhere,” Maddie said.
For her family, her positivity kept them going. “I cant remember her complaining the whole entire time,” her mother Jessica Smith recalls
“That’s just Madeline, she’s really positive,” she said.
It was Branden. Branden’s organs were a perfect match for Maddie.
For the Reyes family it was an easy decision to make. As a doctor, Paul understands the struggles of families like Maddie’s.
“We knew that something good could come of it,” he said.
Branden’s organs helped not just Maddie but three other people. An 82-year-old woman got Branden’s corneas. A man in his 30s got Branden’s small intestines, pancreas and a kidney. And, a a young boy received his heart.
Maddie got Branden’s kidney and liver.
Paul says it is a gift that belongs to Maddie. It’s a gift the Smiths know they can never repay. They think of Branden everyday.
“What can I do to honor Branden–I think about that everyday,” Jessica said. The Smith family will be eternally grateful and constantly shares Branden’s story.
They’ve started “Team Maddie,” a running team inspired by Madeline’s “never give up” mantra. The team wears race shirts that read “Give Life, Be A Donor” to spread awareness about organ donation.
And the Reyes family hosts a free golf tournament every year to memorialize Branden and his swing on the golf course.
BRANDEN LIVES ON
The Reyes and Smith families have met a few times and stay in touch. Paul says Maddie is honoring his son by living her life.
No longer dependent on a feeding tube, Maddie can eat real food, swim, and even travel.
Branden wanted to be a vet. Maddie wants to start a pet sitting company. And thanks to Branden, she can.
Dr. Dev Desai pediatric transplant surgery at Children’s Health Center at Dallas performed Maddie’s surgery at Children’s Children’s Medical Center Dallas.
“I continue to be amazed by that selfless gift,” Dr. Desai said. A gift that forever connected two families. Branden lives on through the lives he touched.
Every 10 minutes a person is added to the transplant list. You can sign up online or in-person at the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. You can also be a living donor. A living donor can donate kidney, tissue and part of the liver while they are alive.
Maddies family has started “Team Maddie,” a running team inspired by Madeline’s “never give up” mantra. The team wears race shirts that read “Give Life, Be A Donor” to spread awareness of organ donation.
And the Reyes family host a free golf tournament every year to memorialize Branden and his swing on the greens.
Dr. Dev Desai, pediatric transplant surgeon at Children’s Health in Dallas and professor of surgery at UT Southwestern, performed Maddie’s surgery at Children’s Medical Center Dallas.