RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Today from StoryCorps, two women brought together by a surprising consequence of the opioid epidemic. So many young people are dying of overdoses that organ donations have gone up in some parts of the country.
So sometimes these tragedies can help people like Karen Goodwin. Goodwin needed a kidney and a pancreas a few years ago. She got them after Adam Shay overdosed on heroin. Goodwin, who is a recovering addict herself, sat down at StoryCorps with Adam's mom, Marlene.
KAREN GOODWIN: Can you tell me about the day Adam died?
MARLENE SHAY: He had been in and out of rehab over the last three years. But he had been sober for a year and seemingly had it all together. But as a mother, you always dread that call. And that day, we got a call from his fiance that he overdosed and was slipping away.
GOODWIN: Well, you know, if it wasn't for Adam, I wouldn't be here.
SHAY: I know.
GOODWIN: When I got the call to come in, they said the reason you have this donor is because he OD on heroin. And right after I had my transplant - I was still in the hospital even - my sister brought me a copy of Adam's obit. And she said, I think this is your donor. Your donor was 21, and this kid's 21. Look at all the similarities.
But I wanted to wait to talk to you because I knew the most chance of rejection would be in the first year. And if Adam's organs failed, I felt like it would almost feel like you losing him and then losing another part of him. But also, because I knew he was a recovering addict, I had the opportunity to give Adam that year of clean time and give that back as a gift to you.
SHAY: Then your beautiful letter came, and you told us about, you know, your addiction. And it was just this gentle reassurance that came over me that this is going to be OK. And I will say, again, thank you.
GOODWIN: For all purposes, I should've died a long time ago. And so I've always felt a responsibility to stay clean and sober to myself and my family. But now it's like I have another family to stay clean for.
MARTIN: That's Karen Goodwin with Marlene Shay for StoryCorps in Beachwood, Ohio. Karen has been sober for 17 years. Their interview will be archived at the Library of Congress. StoryCorps' Great Thanksgiving Listen is next week. This is a chance for students to interview their elders. Educators can learn more at thegreatlisten.org.
(SOUNDBITE OF ELUVIUM'S "GENIUS AND THE THIEVES")
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