STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Hey, it's Friday, which means it's time for StoryCorps when we record everyday people across the country and hear some of their stories. Rick Bounds is a triathlete, but six years ago, he was diagnosed with a serious liver disease. His doctors told him that if he didn't have an immediate kidney and liver transplant, he would die. But they found a match and that's when Dorothy Biernack and her husband Marty entered his life.
DOROTHY BIERNACK: I woke up my husband. I said, you've got to get up. He had a construction company. I said, all your guys are going to be waiting for you. And then he stood up, and he turned around and looked at me, and said, baby, something doesn't feel right. He had a stroke, and by the time we got to the hospital they said there's nothing else they can do for him.
So one of the worst things I ever had to do was to open up that door with his mother and our children looking at me for hope. And I had to tell them that there was no hope. Within minutes of finding out that he was going to pass away, we decided to donate his kidneys and the liver. So why was it so important for you to meet me as your donor family?
RICK BOUNDS: I was struggling with the fact that I was allowed to live and someone passed. And I wanted a picture of the person who had been taken and allowed me to live.
BIERNACK: Were you surprised at how young I was when I walked in? Because a lot of times people expect the widow to be a little old lady walking in.
BOUNDS: Yes. It was hard for me because, here I was sitting across from you eating dinner with, you know, literally, parts of Marty in me, allowing me to be able to do that. And um, I think what set me at ease was your smile. Just like this morning when you got out of the car. You just have a real bright smile, and it just kind of allows people to relax.
And then, three days later, you decided to make the trip to go to the triathlon.
BIERNACK: My daughter came with me and we were waiting for you where?
BOUNDS: At the finish line with the picture of Marty.
BIERNACK: A big picture of Marty.
BOUNDS: I remember going up and giving you a hug, and some woman took that shot of you and I hugging. And you don't see our face, but you see Marty's face, peering out right at the camera.
BIERNACK: That picture means a lot to me, too, because all you can see is the person who brought us together.
BOUNDS: I visualize Marty as my angel.
BIERNACK: Yeah, I feel like Marty still has a purpose, to help you live your life, and see your grandchildren, and I couldn't ask anybody nicer to be able to live with my husband helping you.
BOUNDS: Thank you.
INSKEEP: Rick Bounds and Dorothy Biernack at StoryCorps in Baltimore. You can see their photo from the triathlon finish line at NPR.org. StoryCorps interviews are archived at the Library of Congress.