JEFFERSON, LA (WVUE) - Ronnie Trahan is smiling today, but he's quick to tell you, he stared death in the face.
"A year ago, I was struggling for my life. I was almost dead a year ago," says Trahan.
His pulmonary specialist at Ochsner Medical Center, Dr. Stacy Mandras, says, "He laid in a cardiac care unit for three months, flat on his back, hooked up to a balloon pump, waiting for his heart. It took a lot of effort to stay positive so that he wouldn't give up hope."
Also last year, both of 22-year-old Daveion Cole's lungs were on their last leg.
"I had frequent lung infections, I-V antibiotics, and as of November of last year, I started needing oxygen 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and it took a turn for the worse," says Cole.
Both Cole and Trahan received new organs at Ochsner Hospital and call it the greatest gift they'll ever receive.
They're not alone.
For 7-year-old Elizabeth Lafont, her new heart came when she was just 2 months old.
Today they were among hundreds of transplant patients who got together at Ochsner to celebrate not just the holidays, but their second chance at life.
Donie Lafont holds her daughter tight. She says, "It's a true gift, it's a miracle. I can't express the thanks I have for this gift."
This year alone, Ochsner Medical Center has performed 405 organ transplants. The hospital has performed more than 5000 transplants since its inception in 1984.
Dr. Mandras says this is by far, her favorite day of the year.
"We don't get to see them very often and when they're doing well they go back home and are followed by their local doctors and we do annual visits here," says Dr. Mandras. "So some of the patients I'm seeing today, I haven't seen in a year or two years."
All are grateful for organ donors and their families, who show good can come from something tragic.
"It's one of the biggest blessings," says Cole. "I'll forever be in debt to them for this gift because if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be here today."
For these transplant patients, the holidays are a time to reflect.
"I just wish everybody have a Merry Christmas," Trahan says. "And to the donor family, if they're listening, Merry Christmas, thank you and I'm sorry for your loss."
Doctors say a single organ donor can save nine lives.
To become a donor in Louisiana, it's as simple as checking a box when you get your driver's license.