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Blending families
Man who received liver transplant to meet family of donor
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A Newton man who is doing well after a liver transplant is about to meet the family of the man who saved his life by being an organ donor.

Bill Hardy, who had suffered liver failure, received a liver transplant Dec. 31, 2011. Hardy said the New Year’s Eve miracle would not have happened if not for a paramedic named Kevin, who passed away after being involved in an accident, and happened to be an organ donor.

Through the Life Link Foundation — a nonprofit community service organization that facilitates the donation of organs and tissues for waiting patients — Hardy communicated with Kevin’s family through letters about four months after having liver transplant surgery.

“The one who originally wrote me was his wife, Tara,” the 60-year-old Hardy said. “And then after that letter, I got a letter from his mother Judy.”

After a year of keeping in contact, the two families will meet on Sunday in Norcross at Life Links’ Georgia headquarters. It’s a meeting that Hardy and his family say will no doubt be emotional.

Hardy, who owns Hardy’s Floor Covering and Supplies in Covington, has three children, Allison, Emily, and Josh, and six grandchildren. He said his children supported him throughout his wait for an organ donor, conducting fundraisers and rallying their community and church, Grace Baptist, for spiritual and financial support.

Hardy’s daughter, Emily Schneider, who lives in Saint Marys, has been active on Facebook, giving updates on her father’s journey since day one. Thursday she said she had mixed emotions of excitement and nervousness about meeting Kevin’s family Sunday with her father.

“I know that our happiness is their sadness,” she said. “I hope they will see our family and see that Daddy is keeping Kevin’s legacy going and that our family will become their family.”

Hardy became aware of his disease in February 2011 when he went into the hospital with gallbladder problems.
Doctors determined that his liver was no longer functioning properly.

After finding out her dad needed a liver transplant, Schneider said she immediately started to pray for God to save him. However, she said, she realized that the answer to her prayer would mean heartache for another family.

She said as her family goes into the meeting, she hopes that God will give them the right words to say.

“My hope is that we walk out with a peace that God will give us,” Schneider said. “The family has said that he was the type of man who would give the shirt off of his back and he never met a stranger, and we feel the same way about our dad.”

She said Kevin, a Christian like herself, was her family’s hero and that she couldn’t wait to “hug his neck in heaven.”

As for Hardy, he said meeting the family for the first time is hard to talk about, but he knows the grace of God and Kevin’s choice to become an organ donor are the reasons he is here today.

He explained that people in need of an organ transplant have to get on a waiting list, which is controlled by the Life Link Foundation.

He said a successful donor has to have the same blood type and texture, and weigh about the same as the person who needs the donation.

“I think I waited 91 days for a transplant after I was put on the list, and it was a miracle,” he said. “I give God all the praise and the glory.”

Hardy said his experience has him praying and supporting other people in the community who are waiting for organs as he did.

He said, “God worked it out for him” and now he hopes to inspire others.