Kidney Transplant from Deceased A&M Cadet Gives Life, Hope to Friend

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TEMPLE, Texas Tragedy took 20-year-old Caleb Tate's life, but even in death, the Texas A&M University cadet was able change the life of another.

Tate died in a motorcycle accident in College Station in October. A few days later, the surgeons at Scott and White in Temple were able to successfully transplant his kidney. It was the 500th transplant for the program, which began in 1997.

The recipient, Johnny Ray Watson, is a longtime friend of the family.

"Every once in a while, I'll pat my side and say 'Hi Caleb'," said Watson.

Caleb grew up with Watson, and even called him uncle.

"We'd go in the backyard, and I'd teach him how to play some basketball," said Watson. "He was a very quick learner, and he'd watch everything I'd do. He was going to be Michael Jordan."

Tate's mother, Darlene, said when Caleb first found out Watson needed to go on Dialysis, he offered to donate one of his. With a future career in the military ahead of Caleb, Darlene said the family eventually decided against it.

When life took a different turn and the Tates were faced with the difficult question of donating Caleb's organs, they knew what they needed to do.

The kidney was a match and the surgery was a success. Now Watson said he has just one wish.

"I just hope I can live up to their expectations of me as a man," said Watson. "And as a person in the future."

The Kidney/Pancreas transplant program at Scott and White began in 1997. Hospital officials said since then, they've helped hundreds of patients from around Texas and beyond.