West Bloomfield residents Michael and Alicia Stillman were among hundreds of families of those affected by organ donation that visited Lansing for the Donate Life Capitol Celebration in Lansing Wednesday.
The event brought hundreds of organ transplant professionals, organ and tissue recipients and Michigan donor families together to celebrate the miracle of donation.
The Stillmans, and their two surviving children, lost Emily Stillman to bacterial meningitis in February. The 19-year-old graduate of Andover High School, died just days after being hospitalized, while studying at Kalamazoo College. The family contacted The Gift of Life organization to help others benefit from their tragedy.
How Stillman contracted the disease remains a mystery, but in her honor, the family has become strong advocates for organ donation and vaccination awareness.
Part of Wednesday's celebration included meeting Randy Schumacher of Ubly, MI, who received Emily’s kidney. They also met Joseph Steponski, of Grand Rapids, who received one of her lungs.
“Part of our Emily is inside you. And that is such a blessing,” Alicia Stillman said during the tear-filled gathering, mlive.com reported.
Although admittedly nervous, the Stillmans said they hoped sharing their story would raise awareness for the need of organ donors.
“If we can make a difference in somebody’s life, then Emily’s death has meaning,” Alicia Stillman said. “I think my Emily is looking down, and she is really proud we did this," she told mlive.com.
Steponski, 59, made it clear that they made a difference. He told the Stillmans he was able to meet his first grandson, who was born Aug. 13 to his oldest daughter.
“I’m blessed just to be here,” he said.