A family born from tragedy: Olean High School librarian's daughter lives on in student after organ donation


OLEAN — Cindy Kurjakovic still has bad days.

Any mother would after losing her 31-year-old daughter — whom she loved watching travel abroad, ride horses and perform on stage — to a self-inflicted gunshot after more than a decade of heartbreak, pain and mental illness.

But a few things bring the 64-year-old Olean High School library media specialist comfort after losing her only child, Claudia Kurjakovic. Cindy is comforted by the semicolon bracelet on her wrist that represents suicide prevention, and the green blanket she received from Unyts, the Western New York organ procurement organization that handled the recovery of Claudia’s organs and tissues.

She also has another comfort, shyly hugging her back when she inevitably stops him in the OHS hallways — soon-to-be ninth-grader Joshua Hill, who is permanently connected to Cindy after receiving a direct kidney donation from Claudia.

Those involved — from the OHS staff who helped connect Claudia and Joshua’s families during several crucial hours after Claudia’s death in April, to the Unyts staff who handle organ donation daily — marvel at the tragedy that became a “miracle.” Continue reading

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