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Essex man meets family of woman who gave him second life through transplant

The combined family: back from left, Doug Jerdo, Debbie Jerdo, Linda Buttery, Pam Drollette, Rich Drollette, front from left, Robby Drollette, Lisa Szewczyk, Harold “Junie” Tart, Leslie Cowty and Aliceson Drollette.

The combined family: back from left, Doug Jerdo, Debbie Jerdo, Linda Buttery, Pam Drollette, Rich Drollette, front from left, Robby Drollette, Lisa Szewczyk, Harold “Junie” Tart, Leslie Cowty and Aliceson Drollette. Photo by Keith Lobdell.

— They were also able to use her liver.

"In July we had went out with Dad when we found out that he was a candidate for a transplant, but the first one came back as a false positive test,” Drollette said. “I flew back to Willsboro, but he stayed out there, then we got the call a second time.”

Tart received his new liver Aug. 24, 2003.

“When I knew that my father was receiving a liver, my thoughts went right to the family,” Debbie Jerdo said.

Jerdo and her husband, Doug, knew the pain that they had to be going through because 15 months prior, they had lost their daughter to meningitis.

“Our thoughts were on the loss, but also the gift that was given.”

As is the case with transplants, donors and their families remain anonymous to the recipient, as do they to the donor.

Cowty said that her family had gone through the Gift of Hope Foundation, a group that helps hospitals make matches for organs.

“We couldn’t make the first contact,” Szewczyk said.

All the organization had told them is what had been used to help save the lives of four people.

“The organization told us to not be surprised if no one contacts us because in some cases, they feel guilty that someone had to pass on in order for them to survive,” Cowty said.

Eventually, a letter came from a family thanking them for the gift they had given.

“It’s not pain when you see those letters,” Szewczyk said. “It’s knowing good came out of a bad situation.”

For Junie’s family, the decision to reach out to the family that had made the decision to donate the organs was made in part from their experiences.

“We had a lot of loss in our immediate family,” Jerdo said. “We had learned that how we respond to loss is by keeping our loved ones alive by talking about them.”

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