DONOR STORIES

Captain John J. Boria: “I’ll Fly Away”
John Javier “Javy” Boria had wanted to fly for as long as his parents could remember. His dad, John, an aircraft inspector at American Airlines, and his grandfather, were private pilots, and John would occasionally take Javy and his brother, Joey, up for a spin. But it was when he saw the movie “Top Gun” in 1986 that Javy made the decision that his future would be in the sky as a pilot.

Javy was part of a large, close-knit Puerto Rican-American extended family, and he loved parties and being with his family. “As part of our culture, we love being around people and we’re very loving and huggy-touchy. John just had a zest for life,” says his mother, Wanda, a registered nurse at Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

His Puerto Rican heritage was important to Javy. He and his brother, Joey, both spoke Spanish, but with an accent. Wanda says they felt it was important to keep part of their culture alive in their kids. “John just blended his Puerto Rican culture with his American culture.”

Javy was a competitor. Even though he was small, he played football from elementary school through high school, and he was a huge OU fan. When he graduated from Union High School, Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe nominated John to attend the Air Force Academy. Although he was a good student and made good grades, his test scores weren’t quite high enough, so he spent a year at the Academy’s Prep School just down the hill from the Air Force Academy campus in Colorado Springs.

“He made friends from many cultures while he was there,” Wanda remembers. “Javy’s philosophy was that, when we see people, we should just see people. We shouldn’t look at color, race. We shouldn’t look at their ideology or religion, we should just see them as people.”

Javy was accepted into the Academy the next summer. His father, John, says, “I was elated. We were so proud of him. At first he was a little skeptical about going, but his mom said he needed to give it a shot. He did, and he loved it.”

Wanda remembers that she and her son used to talk about everything. “When Javy came home during a break in his junior year at the Academy, I had talked to him about organ donation. I said how hard it would be to have a child that died because there wasn’t an organ available that could save the child’s life. He said, ‘Mom, let’s become organ donors.’ When I told him I already was, he said, ‘I want to be a donor too. If I die and part of me could be used, it could give somebody else a chance to live the life that I won’t have.’”


Javy graduated from the Air Force Academy in May of 1998, and began pilot training at Vance Air Force Base in August. His first choice was fighter training, and his second pick was flying the big KC-135 air refueling planes that his uncle, Lt. Colonel Jose Blanco, Wanda’s brother, had flown in the Air Force. He got his second choice and was sent to Altus AFB to train in the KC-135s, and later was assigned to a refueling squadron at Grand Forks AFB in North Dakota. In June of 2004, Javy was deployed to the Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) in Doha, Qatar, at Al Udeid AFB. He was there for a 4 month assignment, but not to fly. It was the responsibility of Capt. Boria and all the other pilots assigned to CAOC to make sure transportation aircraft, refueling aircraft and fighters were dispatched where they were needed in Afghanistan and Iraq during Operation Enduring Freedom.

On August 31, 2004, Javy and an Air Force buddy were flying across the desert dunes near Doha on all terrain vehicles they hand rented for the day. They needed time away from the pressure of directing aircraft to and from targets and cargo destinations in Iraq and Afghanistan. After flying over the crest of one of the dunes, his friend looked over his shoulder and saw on his knees, holding his throat in the hot desert sand. His ATV was near him, on its side, the wheels still spinning. Javy’s buddy picked him up and put him on his four-wheeler and held him with one hand as he drove for help.

It was about 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 31, 12 hours after the accident occurred when three Air Force colonels came to the front door of the Boria’s home in Broken Arrow. “When we saw them, we knew that it was not good,” Wanda says. Her first response was, “He’s dead.” But one of the officers said, “No, he’s alive.” Then he read the official letter from the Department of Defense about Javy’s accident.

It took them two days to get John and Wanda to the Hamad Medical Center in Doha. They were told the doctors at the hospital were doing everything they could to keep Javy stable, but they wanted them to be by Javy’s side as soon as possible.

As John and Wanda made the long flight to Qatar, they were hoping and praying for a miracle. “As a nurse,” Wanda says, “I knew that physically it would take a miracle, and I knew in my heart that he was gone, but as a mother I was still holding on and praying for him to be alive.”

When the Borias arrived the hospital, the doctor met them and she couldn’t open her mouth, she just kept looking at them. “I said, ‘Is he brain dead?’ And, she said, ‘Yes, he is.’ I asked, ‘Can you use his organs?’ With some relief and urgency, Wanda remembers, the doctor said, “Yes.”

Javy was already beginning to go into kidney failure and they were giving him all kinds of medicines. John and Wanda were told he
was conscious when he arrived at the hospital. Javy knew the injuries were bad, and he was in pain. They induced a coma and put him on a respirator to try to reduce swelling to the brain…and to protect his organs. During that first night, the swelling in the brain just continued to get worse.

“They knew that they weren’t going to be able to save him,” John says, “so, they just kept him on the ventilator until we got there, so we could say goodbye. And, even though he was an organ donor, they still wanted our permission.”

So, Capt. John Javier Boria, a pilot in the United States Air Force, became an organ donor in Doha, Qatar, thousands of miles from the land that he loved. His organs saved the lives of four Arabs, and his corneas were used to restore sight to two others. Javy, who was color and culture blind, would have been proud to know that.

“You’ve got to understand,” John emphasizes, “in that culture, most people don’t believe in organ donation and transplants. The staff was so excited that he was willing to donate his organs that we had to kind of push them back, they were all over us.”

The Borias told them they couldn’t do anything until their son, Joey, who was attending Bible school in Florida, arrived. When Joey got there, they went to Javy’s bedside and prayed.

I feel like he lives through these other people, wherever they may be, whatever culture they may be,” says Wanda. “Right there at the hospital, I had a Muslim woman lower her veil and she came and embraced me and said, ‘Your son is giving life to others.’ The spirit lives on. I have belief in life after death through Christ, and I believe Javy’s spirit lives on, but the organs he had are giving life to other people and that he’s in them. The good character that he had might be in those people today. If it had been him who needed a kidney to live, or our other son, Joey, I would be so grateful that somebody would do such an unselfish act to let my son live.”


Javy was proud to be a part of the United States Air Force.

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ORGAN DONOR FACTOID
Q. Do celebrities and people with money get transplanted quicker than those without?

A. The placement of organs is done from a national list starting with our state. The order in which the list is kept is based upon severity of the patient's illness, time spent waiting, blood type, and other important medical information.


 


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