Transplant recipient meets heart donor’s family in GR

Posted at 10:24 PM, Sep 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-06 23:03:15-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Two families now bonded by a beating heart met for the first time Friday night.

It was an emotional moment more than three years in the making.

In 2016, Chris Kowalski learned he’d be getting a new heart after nearly a decade of dealing with debilitating heart issues.

Kowalski got the heart transplant at Spectrum Health's Meijer Heart Center.

"You’re so ecstatic and then you go through the thoughts like 'wait a minute, what’s happening to the other family, their loss, my gain.' So you’re praying for them," Kowalski said.

It wasn’t until three years later, when Kowalski found out who he was praying for .

Just a day before he got life-changing news, Wendy Smith and her family got heartbreaking news.

Her son, Kentwood native Cody Baron tragically passed away at the age of 24.

"They asked us, what do you want to donate and we said everything, everything we can, because that’s what Cody would want,' Smith explained.

Since his passing, Baron's organs have given ‘gifts' to more than 100 people. Every one is just as comforting in the healing process for his mourning family.

"He was accepting, non judging, he just had a big heart for people," Smith said.

Now that big heart is beating on, Smith and others got the chance to hear it for themselves.

An emotional moment between two strangers,  joined by the loss of man a who gave someone else a new lease on life.

Both families wanted to share this story to show the impact being an organ donor can have, if you're interested in finding out how you can sign yourself up to be one, click here.