He also realized he couldn’t forget Erin, still in Seattle. A random leap of faith, or his heart, pushed him to reach out to her through Facebook in early 2010. Within a week he was in Seattle. This meeting was far different from the one outside of the hospital.
“The first time I had feelings for him was in 2010,” Erin said. “It was like a switch from young guy to a man. I watched him grow up.”
After he returned to Minnesota, Connor took another leap of faith: He told Erin of his deep affection for her.
While she couldn’t deny that she was attracted to him, it wasn’t as easy for her to reciprocate his feelings. “It was still really terrifying,” she said. “But I was elated.”
Not everyone around them felt the same way.
Nancy Roberts was concerned that her daughter was acting out of gratitude. Connor’s mother, Kim Schnepf, wanted to make sure the emotions were real and not out of obligation for the gift of Kellen’s heart. Erin’s friends were confused.
“My friends would ask me, ‘Isn’t it weird? Isn’t it like it’s your brother or your cousin?’ But it’s not,” Erin said. “Any weirdness people think of this, I think, is from a limited knowledge of organ transplant.
“Once you understand more, you’ll realize we’re not weirdos,” she said before sharing a laugh with Connor.
Now, more than two years later, family members are sold on the union.
Not a day passes that Connor, now 25, doesn’t think of Kellen and his heart. Whether in the morning when taking the eight prescribed pills that help keep his heart pumping, or when he catches a glimpse of the donor in a photo around his home.
Erin, 32, said she sees her brother in Connor’s free spirit, his laid-back personality and the weird things he says. She said she had never met anyone like Kellen. Whenever she really misses him, she rests her head on Connor’s chest.
“It’s a strong beat,” Erin said.
The couple, who live in Seattle and have spoken of marriage, believe Kellen bonded them together through the mourning and celebrating of his life.
“[Connor] understands on a level other people can’t. We’re aware of the sacrifice that had to be made,” Erin said. “I feel my brother chose him for me … as a last gift.”
Jason Gonzalez • 612-673-4494