A Thanksgiving to remember: Parents meet their son’s lung transplant recipient for the first time

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SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCBD) — This Thanksgiving a mom and dad have met the man who received their son’s lungs a year and a half after the organ transplant.

In May of 2018, Ben Kinsey died unexpectedly.

Ben’s mom, Chris Kinsey says she was grateful and sad for the meeting.

“The first thing I always thanked God for every year at Thanksgiving was that my kids were all happy and healthy. I couldn’t say that last year, but this year we have something additional to be thankful for,” Kinsey remarked.

While the decision to donate Ben’s organs was difficult, the Kinsey family knew they made the right decision.

“Ben would have given a stranger the shirt off of his back and I know that he wouldn’t have wanted his death to be for nothing if other people could have been helped,” added Kinsey.

Ben’s life saved five people, including Billy Waller.

“There are no words that would be good enough. Thank you is just not enough,” Billy and Rebecca Waller stated.

Billy Waller was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis in 2006.

“We have been blessed with the best gift ever. That three to five years he was given to live turned into 13 years,” Rebecca said.

This year hasn’t been easy for Billy as he continues to recover from surgery.

“5% of transplant patients for the lungs end up losing their short-term memory and whatever they get back at the one-year point is all they’re going to recover. His has actually gotten worse after that one year point and we found out about a month ago that he’s had a total of three strokes,” commented Rebecca.

The two families have been in communication since last year and have grown a very close relationship, but met for the very first time Tuesday.

“It was just a flood of emotion. We were hugging and I’m sobbing. Billy kept saying ‘thank you, thank you, thank you. There’s just no need to thank me we just did the right thing to do,” Chris recounted.

The two families will spend Thanksgiving together, remembering Ben, and celebrating Billy’s life.

“Just like family. I mean that’s how we feel. They’ve included us and accepted us,” exclaimed Rebecca.

“Being able to listen to the breath and know that he’s still breathing in someone and giving life is pretty amazing,” Chris stated.

In honor of her son Ben, Chris Kinsey has started a non-profit called ‘Blankets from Ben‘ to gift South Carolina parents a hand made blanket when they lose a child.

Chris Kinsey holding the blanket she recieved at the hospital when her son passed away.

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