A Danville liver recipient got a rare opportunity last weekend - a chance to personally thank the family of the man who literally saved his life.
A ceremony to honor the families of organ donors was held in Hayward on April 24 and the recipients were invited to come.
"It was just a great experience," said Milton Wright, known to his friends as Jim. "I call my liver 'Rob.'"
Debbie Ogden, the wife of the donor, Robert, said she'd been waiting since September - when the transplants took place - for the opportunity to meet the recipients and was pleased when she found out they wanted to meet her, too. Her husband donated both his kidneys and his liver, and Ogden said she's happy that he gets to continue to live in others.
"These people are part of our extended family now," she said.
In fact, Ogden, a Modesto resident, said she reached out to the recipients before the event was announced.
"At Christmastime I sent this little package, via the transplant network. It kind of gave an insight to who we are," she said. "I wanted them to know who we are and I wanted them to have that feeling of family from us. I wanted them to know how eager we were to meet them."
She said her 18-year-old son Colin was hesitant to attend the ceremony until he learned the recipients would be there.
"Initially, when we got the invitation, he didn't want to go. He didn't want to go through the emotions," Ogden said.
After meeting the recipients at the ceremony, she noted, "He had the biggest smile I have seen on him for a long time."
Two of the three recipients from Robert Ogden - Wright and Lavell Pennington, a kidney recipient - attended the ceremony Saturday.
Debbie Ogden said Colin and the men have interests in common and that they bonded immediately.
Ogden said the ceremony was done in good taste.
"It's really hard to explain ... what that ceremony meant, the feelings you had, both happy and sad," she said.
"I would like to become an advocate for organ donation," she added. "The word just needs to get out. If you're not a donor, you need to be."
She said all it takes is a signature when renewing a driver's license.
"There are so many people out there who are on the list that could be saved," Ogden said. "All it takes is just one swipe of the pen, and numerous people could be saved."
She said her husband's decision to do just that saved three lives.
"One person dies, but they're giving back life to three people," Ogden said. "If more people could do that, just think how many people and children could be saved."
Ogden said she's been sending out Christmas cards with family photos on them from the time her son was born. This year, she wants the recipients on those cards too.
Wright said he and his wife, Christie, are planning to meet up with the Ogden family again, but haven't set a date.
Christie says she's still processing her emotions from the event.
"It's been really hard for me to talk about. You were hit on so many levels at once. For the recipient, it's a huge gift," Christie said.
"From my perspective and from my husband's perspective, he's alive because of this."
She called the meeting overwhelming.
"That someone can be so generous to give up an organ to keep someone else alive, it's just amazing, Christie said.
She said she was also struck by the fact that the donor looked so much like Jim.
"It was almost like it was meant to be. It was like a gift from God," Christie said.