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For Donor Families At Transplant Games, A Wave Of Emotions

Team Philly gold medal relay team. From left: Derek Fitzgerald, KYW's Jim Melwert, Kyle Atrus, and Bert Fox (Photo Provided by Jim Melwert)

Team Philly gold medal relay team. From left: Derek Fitzgerald, KYW’s Jim Melwert, Kyle Atrus, and Bert Fox (Photo Provided by Jim Melwert)

Jim Melwert Jim Melwert
Jim is a "morning drive" reporter for KYW Newsradio 1060, bringing...
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By Jim Melwert

HOUSTON, TX (CBS) – The Transplant Games of America in Houston are about so much more than just competition.

Donor families — the family members of anyone who died and donated organs or tissue — are treated like royalty here at the Transplant Games, but the emotions can be overwhelming for first-timers. That’s where Pat Hieber comes in for Team Philly.

“I kind of keep an eye on all the new donor families and mentor them, just to be there for them,” Hieber says.

She says she’ll never forget her first games: “My son Chris was 18 when he died in March of ’99 and my first games was in 2000.  And I was lost — alone and didn’t know what I was going to do at the games, because it’s emotional.”

She’s been Team Philly’s donor family liason since 2006, “And I just decided that I wasn’t going to let another donor family go through that feeling of being all alone at the games, especially during the opening ceremonies and [donor] recognition; it’s very emotional.  And I can’t give it up, I’ve been doing it ever since, it’s really rewarding.”