Kennewick family recounts meeting the man who received their son's heart
KENNEWICK, Wash. - Kamiakin High School graduate Justin Elzinga should have been headed to college at WSU-Pullman next week. Instead, he died when a brain aneurysm ruptured in January.
Justin was an organ donor. His girlfriend Gabby Naccarato said they signed up when they got their drivers licenses.
"I mean obviously at the time you don't really think anything is going to happen but we both knew that it was something we wanted to do and it was important to both of us. "
Aside from Gabby, he hadn't talked about it with anyone. Justin's parents had no idea. His father said he was shocked when he was approached about organ donation, "I was like 'Well..my son came into the world as a whole so he's going back to the Lord as a whole."
But, they said it was what Justin wanted.
"A heart of gold would be the best way to describe him," added his girlfriend.
Now, almost eight months after the tragedy, Justin's heart of gold beats in a new man's chest. His kidneys are there too. Recently, the man and Justin organs came down from Everett to meet Justin's family.
"It was so special," said Becky Elzinga, his mother, "We all clicked and we just embraced and hugged and we just had a great time with them. It was phenomenal. It was wonderful."
His mom says it was important for her to hear his heart again, just like she did for the first time 20 years ago when he was still in her womb.
"I just couldn't believe it. It was a good, strong heartbeat, beating on still. I was very grateful."
She teasingly told the man who it was keeping alive that "he's going to be around for a long time, with a strong heart like that."
The Elzingas so enjoyed their meeting that they are now working with the agency which coordinates organ donations to set up a meeting with the others three people who received his lungs, liver, and other organs.