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Illinois man gets heart of man killed in Appleton

  • Associated Press
  • June 12, 2014 - 2:20 PM

NEENAH, Wis. — Joshua Richards was shot and killed in a downtown Appleton bar last December. But his heart lives on in Benjamin Adler.

The 47-year-old Adler traveled from Island Lake, Illinois to meet Richards' family Wednesday in Neenah, five months after receiving the transplant, Post-Crescent Media reports (http://post.cr/1kPJEpf ).

Adler was one of seven people to receive organs from the 25-year-old Richards.

He told the family Richards has a good heart.

"And it's not just Joshua," Adler told Richards' mother Jackie Pische. "It's you and your family. You're amazing."

Adler had his first heart attack in 2003, followed by four more over the following decade.

"I was told the morning after the transplant that it was very, very unlikely I could have lived another 24 hours," Adler said. "They found a blood clot ... and it would have gone into my heart and given me a massive stroke."

Chong Lee, 28, of Neenah, has been charged with the Dec. 8 killing of Richards and is scheduled for trial in December.

The University of Wisconsin Organ and Tissue Donation service coordinates meetings between organ recipients and donors' families. Adler and Richards' mother, Jackie Pische, started communicating earlier this year.

"Just to hear those stories and know that before getting that phone call Dec. 8, they were looking at maybe not making it through the holidays — that's pretty powerful stuff," Pische told Post-Crescent Media. "With a murder trial looming, everybody has to make a decision about how you're going to handle something like that. Instead of being angry or upset, turn it around and turn something good out of a really bad situation."

Wednesday was the first time Pische and Adler met face to face.

"Losing Josh was devastating, but seeing Ben and his family today is awesome," Pische said. "Today it really does come full circle, and it makes it all worth it."

Pische said Richards signed up to be an organ donor at 16 years old.

"He said, 'This is a no-brainer. What am I going to do with them?'" Pische said Wednesday. "That's the kind of person Josh was. He would have done anything for anybody."

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