NEW HAVEN, W.Va. — While many spend time with family for Thanksgiving Day in gratitude of another year of food and company, two families spent it slightly differently as they aren’t bound by blood but by the tissue of a sense of camaraderie, a relationship they wanted to further explore on Thanksgiving with one another in hopes of connecting on a different level.
Adam Carter, 31, of Kalamazoo, Mich., died of a fall-related head injury February 6, 2015. A short time later, some of his organs were taken to be donated to individuals in need. One of those was a liver that was ultimately transplanted in Robert Edwards of New Haven, W.Va.
Carter’s mother, Terri Pelfresne, and sister, Kara Haan, spent part of their Thanksgiving weekend with Robert and his family as the two groups gave thanks for new relationships as a result of Carter’s contribution.
“It’s been an emotional roller coaster for me,” said Robert. “Needless to say, I’m beyond thankful for what Terri and Kara did for letting Adam’s organs be donated because I don’t think I’d be here right now if they hadn’t. There was a great possibility of that. I was near death several times and it was a rough go for me. It’s hard to put in words but it makes me thankful. Meeting them gives me incentive to take care of the gift that was given, which was his liver. It puts faces with names and it means a lot.”
Robert was diagnosed with non-alcoholic cirrhosis and received the liver in 2014 in Cincinnati. Robert’s donation was facilitated by Lifeline of Ohio.
“It means a lot to know that you’re a steward of such a gift and it drives you to be a good steward,” said Monica Edwards, Robert’s wife. “Even our children, we have six children, they’re in their twenties and teens. I noticed last night…we asked Terri questions about Adam and she told us about him and stories. My children, who are young adults, they were sober and affected. It was solemn and something to see them take it in.”
“There’s something within me that wants to be an advocate for organ donation because there are so many people who are unaware of it and the positive effects it has,” said Haan. “It something that needs to be talked about even though it can be difficult.“
“We took about four years to work on letters to the (donation) recipients and had to go through (the organ donation program),” said Terri. “I talked to Kara who’s gifted in that kind of thing and gave her my outline. She started and finished and sent the letters. (The organ donation program) contacted the recipient and it’s gone from there. We’ve had two responses back and we heard from the man with Adam’s heart… Then we heard from Rob about a year ago… We have been talking to Monica and Rob online, texting, but never in person. We decided we needed to get with them around Thanksgiving. Its been wonderful. We feel like we’ve known each other forever. The connection is so big and hard to describe.”
Kara and Terri said that meeting Adam’s donors was healing for them and it was important to know that Carter lived on assisting others in some form as he had a love of life he often displayed having been an icon among the theatrical community of Kalamzoo as an actor.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342.