BELLE ISLE, Mich. - It was a breathtaking moment when the parents of a young woman who lost her life met three of the people who received her organs.
Pamela Praill was just 26 years old when she crossed the border from Canada to do some last-minute Christmas shopping with her mom. Pamela suffered an aneurysm and died on Christmas Day. Her parents made the decision to donate her organs and they had the chance to meet three of those recipients at the "Life Walk" on Saturday.
"It's been a long time coming," said Patti Praill. "I'm anxious to meet them all."
Patti and her husband, Marc Praill, expected tears, but as the recipients of their daughter's organs approached, it was tough to find a dry eye in the room.
First was Wally from Bay City, who received Pamela's pancreas and one of her kidneys. Next was Jacob from Monroe, a teenager who receiver Pamela's other kidney. Finally there is Scott from Fowler, who received Pamela's liver.
It was a moment that Pamela's parents had dreamed about: the chance to meet those who got a second chance from their loss.
"Our daughter is watching us today," Marc said to the recipients. "She continues to make us proud and we only hope that you all have long successful lives."
The Praills first learned who had received their daughter's organs from a story on Local 4 about the transplants for Jacob and Scott. They knew the details were too close to be a coincidence.
"I'm just so glad we found you and you found us," Patti told them.
The Praills are from Harrow, Ontario, and brought the recipients Canadian flags and souvenirs.
"You are now partly Canadian citizens," Marc told them, laughing.
The group shared stories about Pamela during the time together.
"She used to take the car without us knowing it before she even had her license," Marc said.
Patti and Marc tried to get to know the young men who now carry part of their daughter with them, talking about topics like hockey and football.
The recipients described their feelings about meeting the parents of their donor for the first time.
"Very emotional, extremely emotional," Wally said. "To finally see them face to face, it was almost a relief to actually see them and tell them thank you."
"It's mind-blowing to see everyone together in one place," Jacob said. "That's an amazing gift that I guess you can never repay."
The recipients and their families say they think of Pamela and her parents every day. But it seems like the gift in "gift of life" goes both ways.
"Just seeing them so healthy and so alive because of Pam makes it better," Patti said. "A parent's biggest fear when a child passes is that they'll be forgotten and I don't believe that Pamela will ever be forgotten."
Pamela's gift was honored at today's Life Walk. Patti and Jacob released butterflies as a fragile symbol of life that, after a little encouragement, soared skyward.
Thanks to Pamela's gift, life goes on. Jacob is entering his senior year of high school. He plans to go to college and wants to be a pharmacist.
Scott is a junior this year and will be playing football in the fall.
Wally is getting married in September.
Wally's story: Organ recipient grateful for Canadian donor's gift of life
"To see them out here today, and to see them as happy as they are and realize God works in strange ways," Marc said. "It's pretty special to think that she was able to make a difference in their lives and their families."
They joined with a small army of Pamela's family and friends, the purple-shirted "Praill's Angels," to walk in her honor and to remind everyone that so many people are still waiting for that gift of life.
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