When the Cleggs heard the heartbreaking news in their deep devastation, they had a clear thought.
"Something positive had to come out," Gail Clegg said. "We thought: Can we do something, can he be an organ donor?" "
So they donated his body to 100 different recipients Now, 10 years later, they have an extraordinary friendship with some of the people who received Sean's most important organs, they regard them as an extended family – and one of them was born in the Essentially like the daughter she never had.
Stefania DeMayo, 37, died before she received Sean's heart in 2008. She now calls the Cleggs "mom and dad" and her children ̵
DeMayo said her connection was "instantaneous" when they met.
"Gail went through my door and I hugged her and could not let her go, DeMayo said about her first meeting with Gail Clegg. "I know it sounds cheesy, but I felt like I knew her forever."
At this first meeting, they sat at DeMayo's kitchen table and talked for hours. Gail brought pictures of Sean, which are now spread over DeMayo's house.
Other members of the "extended family" include the recipient of Sean's right kidney – a woman the Cleggs went on holiday with in Europe last year – and a man who has one of Sean's lungs.
The cleggs are also in contact with the woman who got Sean's left kidney even though she did not speak English.
Gail Clegg, 52, said she realizes how unusual everything is. 19659002] "They always tell me that I've saved their lives," Clegg said of Sean's organ recipient. "I say it also saved my life, Sean is gone, but definitely not forgotten, all these other people live because of him."
The friendships are simple and natural, Clegg said, as well as her way of holding onto the legacy of Sean, a good-humored boy who loved sports and Harry Potter and was known to help his friends.
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DeMayo was a 27-year-old woman whose heart it was failed in 2008 when her desperate prayers were answered. When she found out that the heart was coming from a 14-year-old boy, she knew that this time of joy in her life had to be gutted for the family that had lost her son.
Once in Newark Beth Israel operated Medical Center was a success, DeMayo wanted to reach this family. She said she knew that she, like many others, might have died while waiting for a heart transplant, and she wanted to thank the donor's family for their generosity. But her husband, Richard DeMayo, 43, who owns a pizzeria, told her not to jump too fast.
"He said to me, 'You have to give this family a chance to grieve,' she recalled. "But I felt like I needed to thank them and let them know that they saved my life, and during a really dark time in their lives, they did something good for someone else."
She did not know who the Cleggs were, but she was able to write them a letter through an organ donor agency, NJ Sharing Network, which would deliver them. Gail Clegg said she and her husband, who was a night manager in a supermarket, responded immediately.
In fact, Gail Clegg had already decided that she needed to know where her son's organs were going.
"I thought whoever gets his organs, we want to meet them," she said. "At the time, we did not know that was not normal, we wanted to do that and nobody wanted to say no to us."
Shortly after the transplant DeMayo became pregnant and gave birth to twins. It was an incredible achievement: her doctors believe she's the first woman to have twins after a heart transplant.
"None of us was enthusiastic about her pregnancy, which was close to transplant," said one of her doctors, Mark J. Zucker, head of cardiothoracic transplants at the Newark Beth Israel Medical Center
The twins were born too soon but everything went well. And as soon as the babies' health stabilized and the DeMayos brought them home, the cleggs went straight in to help. On a regular basis, they made the one and a half hour drive to babysit Melania and Natalia, who are now 8 years old.
They often visit their "grandchildren" at the weekend to the toy shop or simply hang out. The DeMayos also have a son, Luciano, who is 4 years old. The younger son of Cleggs, Brian, now 23, is Luciano's godfather.
"Over the years, we have come closer and closer," said DeMayo. a housewife who lives in Wayne, New Jersey and also travels to visit the House of Cleggs. "They are like a very close family for me."
Clegg describes DeMayo as "the daughter I never had."
Several times a year, the Cleggs will have family reunions and the DeMayos will include the other donor recipients. DeMayo and Melissa Coleman, who have Sean's right kidney, have become friends and often write each other about their lives. And the women are also friends with the lung receiver Craig Lawton.
"I have a connection with them because we were all in the same boat, we were all dying," DeMayo said. "One person brought us all together, that one person saved our whole life."
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Coleman, 46, who was dialysed 10 hours before the transplant every day, said she felt "so blessed" not only to have one of Sean's kidneys, but also the cleggs in her life to have. "I never imagined such a fantastic life," she said. Coleman said she was often overwhelmed with emotion when Gail Clegg thanked her for saying that the Cleggs are the ones who deserve gratitude. "She's always telling me that I'm a 'gift," "said Coleman, carrying a photo of Sean wherever she goes.
Lawton, 64, said that after his transplant, he had little time to respond to the Cleggs' offer because he wanted to heal physically and also be in a strong mental place. He could not imagine that he had come so close to the Cleggs that he looked at her as a family.
"It's wild, I got close to Gail and her husband," Lawton said. "On the one hand, you feel bad for them, because you can not imagine what they went through, and on the other hand, you got a gift, so you better take care of this gift."
Sean's Corneas landed in Egypt, while his bones, skin and other tissues were used to help more than 90 other humans.
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Gail Clegg said she always admired him when her son lived extreme friendliness. She said he always listened to friends' ears or allowed them to borrow their belongings. So she knows that he wanted to be an organ donor.
"If someone thinks of their son as a hero, what else could save for others but life?" she said
After his death she found Sean's own words as her guide. On the same day in August 2008, he went out to ride his bike, he wrote on MySpace: "We all die … The goal is to create something that lives forever."
Sean's mother said she believed he talked about making music, which he liked to do. But she also takes his quote at face value.
"We let him live forever," said Clegg. "He will live forever with Stefania & # 39; s children, we created it, that's what he wanted, that's the kind of kid he was."
Author information: Allison Klein has since been a reporter at the Washington Post in 2004, with a break from 2013 to 2017.