CHICAGO — It was a “hello” nearly seven years in the making.
Fanny Vlahos and Marie Watson met for the first time this week, but their connection dates back to Memorial Day weekend of 2012. It was a deadly weekend in Chicago. In all, shootings left 10 people dead and dozens injured.
Watson's brother Marcus Morgan was killed in one of those shootings. It’s still an open case today.
Vlahos was born with cystic fibrosis. Not long after delivering her baby, she could barely breathe and needed a transplant. Over Memorial Day weekend of 2012 she got the call — there was a match, and it was Morgan.
"There’s no one that I would consider my angel more than him," Vlahos said.
Thanks to Morgan, she’s here today, along with four other people who were able to use his organs.
After years of wondering about Morgan's family, Vlahos finally had the courage to make a social media post. That’s how she and Watson found each other.
"This is what it looks like, when those families get together, they become one family," Gift of Hope CEO Kevin Cmunt said.
Vlahos said their story really highlights how in the midst of gun violence on Chicago’s streets, something remarkable can happen.
"At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where I come from, what color skin, our families are forever connected," she said.
It’s not clear to the family exactly how Morgan became interested in organ donation, but they’re not surprised.
"He’s always wanted to give," brother Marlon Morgan said.
Marcus Morgan's mother made the final call to donate his organs that day, and now they know what a difference it made. Vlahos also spoke on the phone with Marcus Morgan’s mother, who now lives in Mississippi. She’s hoping to meet Vlahos soon.
Organ donation numbers are up 70 percent over the last six years.