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Former UNC Student, Jason Ray Has Inspired a Foundation That Helps A Young Triad Girl

10:50 PM, Apr 3, 2012   |    comments
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Walkertown, NC-- It's a story that's hard to forget, though it's hard to believe, it's been five years. Jason Ray was a UNC student and the school's mascot, "Rameses." In 2007, he traveled with the basketball team to New Jersey for the NCAA tournament, but he never made it to the game because he was hit by a car and died.

Fortunately, his story doesn't end there. Jason was an organ donor and his donations went on to save four lives. News 2 found out that Jason Ray is hitting very close to home for one Triad girl.

The Jason Ray Foundation is dedicated to raising money to help transplant patients and their families, including Ashley McKnight, who wasn't expected to live past age six. Now, thanks to two transplant surgeries and four donated lungs, her future is looking bright.

When Ashley McKnight was a baby, she was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. By the time she reached age 13, her health started to fail and she needed a double lung transplant.

"Seeing Ashley laying in a hospital bed sick, I would have always wished it could be me lying there instead of her", said Ashley's mom, Christine McKnight.

Ashley had her first lung transplant in 2009 but had a rejection. By December of 2011, she went into respiratory failure. She received a match shortly after and had her second double lung transplant this past January.

"She certainly wouldn't have survived without the second lung transplant, in fact, [she] was quite close to death when the transplant occurred", explained Dr. Terry Noah, Medical Director for the UNC Pediatric Lung Transplant Program.

Just weeks before Ashley's 17th birthday, the greatest gift of all - a donor match and another shot at life.

Ashley McKnight said, "I was scared and I was nervous, but I told them, whatever it took, I was ready."

Ashley was a fighter up until the day of surgery. She had to prove she was healthy enough for the transplant by walking 200 feet a day, thus keeping her on the transplant list.

Now, after four months at the Ronald McDonald House in Chapel Hill, Ashley is ready to embark on what she considers her third shot at life with hopes that her story may inspire more to give that very gift.

Ashley told News 2, "Your organs aren't going to be working in your body if you're not here, and if it could save someone else, I mean, why not..try?"

The Jason Ray Foundation got wind of Ashley's story and has offered to pay for medical equipment she needs for therapy. Ashley and her family are heading back to Forsyth County this weekend in time to celebrate Easter at home.

WFMY News 2

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