(KTXL) — The month of April is National Donate Life Month, a time to celebrate those who have become organ donors. Jackson Vaughan has been one of those recipients.
“At age 3, I was diagnosed with stage four liver cancer,” he told FOX40.
He and his doctors fought their way through 11 rounds of chemotherapy. They finally were able to get the cancer to stop spreading when another setback occurred.
“They did what is called a wash-up. Which is kind of where they go back in, look at the liver and see if it’s still working right,” Vaughan explained. “When they were doing that, the liver ended up being dead completely, so I was immediately rushed onto life support.”
Vaughan said he went into cardiac arrest twice during the emergency surgery.
“I think 30 minutes in, a lot of the doctors had given up and they didn’t really want to keep trying,” he recalled.
But they did and now Jackson is believed to be the first Division 1 college athlete to play baseball after receiving a liver transplant.
“For the most part, I’m pretty much normal — besides a lot of the things that happened in the past,” he said with a laugh.
“He’s an easy guy to root for. It’s an easy guy to have on your side because you know that there’s not many things in life that are going to faze him,” said pitching coach Dan Jaffe.
“I need to work my absolute hardest in order to show my gratefulness, to show how appreciative I am of this gift,” Jackson said.
“He works harder than anybody. Just the way he goes about his business, the way he works on his body, the way he lifts, with how hard he prepares himself, you would never know,” Jaffe said. “You would just think it’s somebody who is very into preparation.”
The 21-year-old junior is a relief pitcher for the Tigers at the University of the Pacific, and he works just as hard in the classroom as he does on the field, keeping up a 4.0 GPA as a geology major.
“Right now, I’m taking chemistry, geochemistry and structural geology. Not a light schedule, I guess you could say,” Jackson joked.
“The chances of surviving stage 4 liver cancer at the age of 3, with two heart attacks with 46 minutes of cardiac arrest? Pretty slim. The chances of making it to MLB? Pretty slim,” he continued. “I think I can do both.”