CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. - Michael DeBlase was from eastern Pennsylvania, Scott Swartout, Western New York, but their paths would meet at the Cleveland Clinic.
Michael was just a week away from his 24th birthday when he died from a brain aneurysm on February 14th, 2015. He had signed a donor card.
Michael's mother, Lisa Rigione, finds comfort in knowing others have been helped by her son's gesture. "Michael became an organ donor on Valentine's Day, which is also Organ Donor Awareness Day, so literally he gave his heart on Valentines Day." He also gave his kidneys, liver and lungs.
"And our tragedy was somebody else's joy," says Rigione. "Nothing could have saved my son, but my son saved six people. And there's no greater legacy than that."
One of those people was 300 miles away, in Cheektowaga. Scott Swartout had been battling kidney problems for close to two decades. His troubles began with a simple case of strep throat that spread to his kidneys. He spent eight years on a variety of drugs to try and correct his kidney disease, but they had another result.
His muscles and joints began to deteriorate to the point he has to use an electric scooter to get around.
He ultimately spent eight years on dialysis. Then, when he finally received a transplant, his life began to turn around. "I went to night school to be come a dialysis technician so I could help others to know, look there is life after transplantation," said Swartout.
He even met the woman he would marry, Tricia had just donated a kidney to her sister
After 13 years, Scott's new kidney gave out, putting him back on the list. In February of 2015, the call came they had ben waiting for. The kidney has responded well, but with mounting medical bills and Scott unable to work, his wife Tricia has had to work two jobs.
The couple just misses the threshold for social services, and because of Scott's declining physical condition, they need work to be done on the house.
They need a ramp for the front and a walk-in tub. As you can imagine, medical bills have piled up so they need help. That is why Tricia has started a You Caring fundraising account, (by clicking on the words " You Caring " you will be taken to the site). Lisa Rigione actually contacted 2 On Your Side's Pete Gallivan about their account to see if she could help Swartouts even more.
When she found out Pete was doing the story, she asked if she could come up from her home in Bangor, PA, about an 8-hour drive from Buffalo. She had been in contact with Scott through Facebook, but they had never met. She wanted to surprise him. So, on a morning in June, a kidney transplant recipient met face to face with the mother of the man who died so he could live.
The two hugged each other with all of the emotion that you could imagine. It was an embrace that was years in the making. An embrace that was forged in tragedy, but has resulted in hope; hope that Scott lives a healthy life, and hope that Michael's spirit and legacy lives on through Scott.
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