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Donor's Family Follows Organ Recipient's Childhood

May 21, 2014, 10:18 AM


A South Dakota teen's high school graduation included the family of a Minnesota girl who donated a life-saving organ to the graduate 17 years ago.

Tessa Hertel was born with a liver disorder that required a transplant for survival. Kristin Burkholder, of Esko, was 12 years old when she was struck and killed at track practice in April of 1997.

Kristin's father, Kevin Burkholder, says many of his daughter's organs were donated. But, Tessa is the only recipient that his family has kept in touch with. So it was fitting that after watching her grow up, family members would attend her graduation in Parker, South Dakota last weekend.

Kristin's mother and brother attended the ceremony and surprised Tessa. She says that if she could, she would give Kristin a hug and never let go.

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