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Strangers become family, forever a heartbeat apart: Root family meets heart recipient

Members of the Root and Griffin families embrace for the first time, outside the Elba community center (NTV News)
Members of the Root and Griffin families embrace for the first time, outside the Elba community center (NTV News)
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A young heart beats on, connecting two families forever.

“Amazing, amazing.”

A mother listened to the unforgettable, with a stethoscope placed on a stranger’s chest.

“It's so indescribable,” Michelle Root says, her voice shaking.

It’s the same sound Sarah Root's family first heard 24 years ago.

“You hold them for the first time in the hospital, hear their heart,” Michelle said.

21 years, 8 months, 30 days after Sarah was born, the Root family heard their daughter's heart for the final time, but now they listen again for the first time.

“Somebody else can live on through her, and she can live on through them,” Michelle said.

Outside a small town community center, strangers became family, welcoming each other with open arms.

The heart beating in Dan Griffin's chest gives him a fresh outlook.

“Pretty much have to say it couldn't be better, I feel great,” he said.

A blizzard couldn't stop him, as folks plowed a path to get them to the hospital for a lifesaving transplant.

His wife Peggy watched another story unfold in the news, of a 24–year–old killed by a driver that police say was drunk and racing, and had made unlawful entry into the country, coming from Honduras.

“I didn't want someone to die so I could live longer,” Dan says of Sarah’s untimely death.

But Sarah was an organ donor, and her family knew her wishes.

Her dad Scott said, “That's the type of person she was, giving person, even after she's gone.

She's helped at least six families, maybe more. The Roots have met one of them, but this was different.

Michelle said, “From the day this took place, all of them, I want to meet all the recipients of Sarah's organs but I wanted to especially meet the heart recipient because Sarah had the biggest most wonderful heart.”

Both families got their wish, meeting in Dan's hometown of Elba. The Roots arrived half an hour early, anxious for what awaited.

“You're happy, you're excited, you're sad, you're nervous, all rolled into one,” Michelle said.

They came together to celebrate Dan’s birthday, although he jokes he now has two.

He said, “Part of me's 24, part of me's 64. I kind of like to think the 24 part is leading the way.”

Two families are now forever a heartbeat apart.

“She's still here,” Dan whispered to Michelle.

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“You better believe it,” she replied. “And as ornery as ever.”

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