KALAMAZOO, Mich. — In the midst of grief, Terri Pelfresne and Kara Haan say their family grew.
“We’ve got a bigger family now,” said Pelfresne.
Six years ago, the Kalamazoo family lost their son and brother, Adam Carter. Pelfresne says an accident at home left him with a fractured skull.
Pelfresne and Haan describe Carter as artistic, funny, and impactful. They say around 900 people showed up to Carter’s funeral in February 2015.
“He was very influential within the community,” said Haan. “He did a lot with theater and the improv comedy like my mom said. He was really loved by everyone and touched so many people.”
They say it’s only fitting that Carter is still affecting other people.
After his death, Carter’s family donated his organs. The 31 year old’s heart, liver, lungs, and kidneys went to five people across the United States.
“We knew that’s what he would want,” said Pelfresne.
Adam’s heart went just a few hours north though to Joe Grant. Grant lives in Bellaire with his wife, Pat.
According to Grant, stress from an undefeated heart attack caused it to fail, leaving him on the transplant list for 10 years.
“He couldn’t go fishing, he couldn’t do all the things he loved to do because he’d been so sick,” said Pat Grant. “The heart gave him a life back. It literally gave him his life back and he doesn’t waste a day of it.”
The families met in 2017 and soon became part of each others lives. For example, Grant walked Haan down the aisle at her wedding.
“Joe just hugged me,” said Pelfresne when talking about their first meeting. “A comforting, loving hug for as long as I wanted for me to listen and that’s what I needed more than anything.”
Pelfresne and Haan have also connected with Carter’s liver recipient; It’s a man named Rob who lives in West Virginia.
“Adam lives on in Joe, in Rob, and in the others so that provides a level of comfort for us as well and has helped the grief process,” said Haan. “Just having them there and them allowing us to be in contact with them just means so much to us.”
According to Gift of Life Michigan, more than 2,500 Michiganders need a transplant and 9,000 in the state have received a life-saving one in the past 10 years.
Carter’s loved ones, and his recipient’s families, encourage people to donate life.
“Adam saved Joe’s life and… other people can do the same thing,” said Pat Grant.
“He gave me six years that I never would’ve had,” said Joe Grant.
To answer commonly asked questions about organ donation that may prevent people from registering, such as whether an organ donor can still have an open-casket funeral, click here.
To sign up for the donor registry, click here.