(WLNS) – It’s been said: life is like a game of cards. How well you do depends on what you do with the cards you’ve been dealt.
That may be true. For one mid-Michigan man, the “hand” he was given three years ago seemed inconceivable. He had to bury his 16-year old son.
But his story doesn’t end there.
That bad hand played with generosity of heart created “the perfect match.”
By outward appearances, you’d probably never expect a man and a young boy who enjoy playing cards to be best buddies.
Jaiwan, a teenage boy from a big city outside Detroit and a Craig, a grown man from a small town in Genesee County.
But these two have formed a life-long bond that goes well beyond playing Uno.
Truth be told, this pair never would have met unless something big had happened.
It did. Something really big and heart-breaking and miraculous three years ago.
You see, they both basically, saved each others lives.
But to tell their story, you have to start at the beginning, for each of them.
Jaiwan was born 14 years ago, with a rare kidney condition, which forced him from the age of 4 to be on kidney dialysis. It’s a long and arduous process, consisting of going to the hospital, getting an IV needle poked in his arm four days a week, for six hours at a time.
That time commitment to purify his blood, keeping him alive left little time for him or his mother to do anything else.
“I just want to be a real boy,” said Jaiwan.
To be “a real boy” for Jaiwan meant to be able to do things most kids take for granted, like run, play and eat anything they want.
Due to restrictions in his diet and activity, Jaiwan couldn’t do any of that.
Instead, he was mostly tethered to a machine.
To become a “real boy” would take a life-saving kidney transplant, but the list for organs is long for people like Jaiwan.
According to the Gift of Life Michigan, right now more than 3,500 people are waiting for life-saving organ transplants.
Thanks to a video produced by Gift of Life Michigan four years ago, Jaiwain became the “poster boy” for the organization to encourage people to sign up and be an organ donor.
His video is shown to all kinds of people, civic groups, on YouTube and in hospitals.
With the ultimate goal, savings lives.
But to save a life means someone has to lose theirs.
Fast forward to May 9, 2012, a day that Craig will never forget.
His 16-year-old son Jon was being treated in the hospital, for a prolonged depression.
“He’d come home and I asked him how he was doing,” said Craig Clark, Jon’s father.
“He gave me that teenage look, walked into his bedroom. I tried talking to him again. He just said, “get out”.
Jon stayed in his bedroom. Craig left to answer the phone. He says a while later he noticed his son go down to the basement.
“And I went down about five minutes behind him. Found him. I couldn’t get him down,” said Craig.
Jon had hanged himself.
Jon was rushed to Genesys Health System in Flint, but didn’t make it.
And while Craig’s family gathered in shock and grief there, they were approached by Gift of Life Michigan to donate Jon’s organs.
At first, they were reluctant until they saw this video of Jaiwan’s struggle.
“I was actually in a room with Jon and my family had seen the video, they said you really need to watch this. I saw Jaiwan on there, going through a struggle all his life as well.”
Craig said, as difficult as that time was, if something good could come from something so bad, it seemed like the right decision.
“If something like this was gonna happen, we could save someone else’s life.”
In making that generous decision to donate Jon’s organs something miraculous was set into motion.
Because, out of the thousands of people on the waiting list for an organ transplant the “perfect match” turned out to be Jaiwan, the boy Craig saw on the video the day his son died.
When you hear the rest of their story, you’ll see why they’re both winners. In part two Tuesday on 6 News at 6 Jane Aldrich will show you how this unexpected friendship turned out to be a life saver for both Craig and Jaiwan.