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Heart transplant recipient meets the family of his donor

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MISSOULA, Mont. - Missoula resident Troy Schlimgen received a life-saving heart transplant in April 2013 after being diagnosed with a familial heart disease in October 2010. He met the family of his donor, Laura Michele Smeland, for the first time at a special event Friday.

Schlimgen's father, grandfather and great-grandfather died form the same heart disease, but it had not impacted anyone in the family for nearly 30 years.

"It's been centuries that this has been going on in our family," Schlimgen said.

After he was diagnosed in 2010, Schlimgen moved from Missoula to Spokane to be closer to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center -- a specialized medical facility.

Schlimgen said just after his move, doctors believed they found a match. However, they would later discover the heart wasn't compatible. Schlimgen said it was a devastating revelation, "I think my body and my mind were just -- I was trying to keep going, but I felt like I was just living on borrowed time at that point."

Saturday, Laura Michele Smeland's parents, Steve and Helen, and Schlimgen spent time together at a organ donation celebration in Missoula.

"Laura loved to help other people as she was a nurse. I believe she helped many people while she was on this earth and as well as in her death now. She would be very happy to see what's happened," said Laura's mother, Helen Smeland.

Laura's parents said despite that losing their daughter was the most painful experiences, meeting Troy provides some closure.

"Well, we had dinner with Troy and his family last night and we actually brought her stethoscope and heard her heartbeat," Smeland said.

Schlimgen said just like their daughter is a part of him, Laura's family will always be part of his life as well.

"For me, I think the gratitude that I have, I don't think that will ever go away because I just feel like the bond that we have, I don't think that that is something we will ever lose," Schlimgen said.

Schlimgen said that his previous heart was given to Harvard University for medical research.??

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