This organ recipient met the donor's family 22 years after her surgery




PASADENA >> When Katy Portell met Sheila and Jack Wolf, they embraced in the kind of hug that long-separated parents and children might share.

The Wolfs lost their 8-year-old son, P.J., in 1991 in a bicycle accident and allowed his organs to be donated. A few years later, a little piece of P.J. was inside Portell — his heart valve.

The transplant allowed then 4-year-old Portell to survive, then thrive and meet the Wolfs 22 years later.

“I never thought I’d get a chance to speak with them, let alone meet them,” Portell, 27, said. “It’s a miracle.”

An unexpected meeting

The meeting was organized by Donate Life, a nonprofit organization that registers organ, eye and tissue donors across the country. Portell is set to ride alongside transplant donors and recipients on Donate Life’s float in Monday’s Rose Parade.

The meeting happened in a small conference room in the Hilton Pasadena hotel six months after Katy first made contact, Sheila Wolf said.

Portell sent a letter to the Wolfs in May after spending two years requesting hospital records and looking for answers. Since then, the couple and Portell exchanging letters and family photos until Donate Life notified them that they were all invited to Pasadena for the Rose Parade.

“I can’t think of any way that is more special or bigger to meet than to get to celebrate P.J. on a float in the Rose Parade,” Portell said.

A photo depiction of P.J will appear on the float, named “Teammates in Life.”

A symbiotic…

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