PHILADELPHIA, PA (WTXF) - A story of someone giving "the gift of life" is always precious, especially when a bond forms between families. But the connection between a family in Philadelphia and one in West Virginia is extraordinary.
FOX 29's Joyce Evans sat down with the Northern Liberties family who didn't hesitate to donate the gift of life when tragedy struck their only son.
This is a family who had never even thought about organ donation. None of them had registered, and they didn't expect anything in return when they leaned on their Christian faith to make a decision. But what they got back, and keep getting back, they can hardly put into words.
Lonnie Anderson was 18 years old in 2009, heading off soon to the Army Reserves and nursing school, wrapping up his duties at church and looking out for his little sisters when he wasn't playing video games with his buddy across the street.
Then, a bullet meant for someone else struck Lonnie. The 6'2", 210-pound graduate wouldn't make it, but his organs were in perfect condition. His mom and sisters had a decision to make.
"We talked it over, and I asked if it was all right with them, and they said 'Sure whatever you want,'" Lonnie's mother, Sharon Anderson, told FOX 29.
"I figured somebody else could use it to save somebody else's' life."
A lot of somebodies would end up receiving organs from Lonnie, and they reached out to Lonnie's family through The Gift of Life.
"It was wonderful," Aunt Carolyn Terry said. "And it came at a time when we were still in shock."
Lonnie's family reached back, writing to help cope with the pain.
But the 11-year-old daughter of the man who received Lonnie's lungs wanted more.
Seven years later, just three months ago now, the Andersons traveled to West Virginia to visit Brian Stover, his wife Sherry and little Marlee, who they surprised at her graduation. They also got to feel Lonnie's lungs working.
"I'm happy that I can give them that little bit of comfort compared to the loss that they've had to endure," Brian told FOX 29.
"Lonnie's spirit lives on," Carolyn said. "We get to see it we get to hear it through whoever is carrying that spirit."
Unfortunately, insurance issues have left Brian without his anti-rejection medicines for a month. He told FOX 29, along with Sharon, that his lungs are failing.
"The doctors have done the math," Brian said. "They think I have around 25 percent of my lung capacity left."
Now, Brian needs a donor. And quickly.
Lonnie's family is praying for Brian, who may get another call any day now.
"This is a good man who has treated his body preciously," Carolyn said. "And he just wants to live."
"We're always gonna be family," Sharon added.
Brian he is moving up the organ donor list faster than he thought, but he has no intention of leaving his immediate and new-found families anytime soon.
FOX 29 will update this story as we receive new information.