Heart transplant bonds two local families together forever
An Indiana woman's tragic death saved a Kentucky woman's life.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- When you've been given a gift like Lisa Russell has, it's easy to feel like a "thank you" isn't enough.
"I take my gift serious, especially since I know the circumstances surrounding my gift," Russell said.
Two years ago, the Louisville woman was days from death. Her prayers were answered, but at a cost.
"This is absolutely the best outcome that could come from a really terrible situation," said Gene Stogsdill of Evansville.
His daughter Elaine was on the way to the hospital that day in 2016 after not feeling well.
"Since she had been in the hospitals three times, I thought I'd just see her after a while," he said.
That trip wouldn't be like the others. Less than a mile from his house, Elaine had a cerebral stroke. A medical helicopter flew her from Evansville to U of L hospital, but she didn't survive.
"Every day is a new day, and I learn to cope with it the best way possible," said Elaine's daughter, Gracie Stogsdill said.
Elaine was an organ donor, and it would only be days until her heart was given to Lisa Russell. The transplant happened at Jewish Hospital.
"For me, I've gained a new family," Russell said.
After a little time passed, she gave the Stogsdills a gift she hoped would represent that. It was a teddy bear that plays the recorded sound of Elaine and now Lisa's heart.
"They were surprised and also overjoyed to know that was their mom's heart," Gene Stogsdill said.
On Thursday, the two families took another step in their emotional recovery by talking about the rough journey to today. A crowd at Kentucky Donor Affiliates listened to every heart-felt word
The punch in the gut from life still stings, but the bond it's created will last a lifetime.
"My heart has been warmed knowing that my heart experienced so much joy and so much life," Russell said.
Gene Stogsdill admits he was skeptical about donating organs before his daughter's passing. Now he hopes her story helps to inspire others to also give the gift of life.
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