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Family gives life to others after tragic death

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WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich. (WJBK) - Family photos and precious memories fill the walls of the Stillman household in West Bloomfield. 19-year-old Emily Stillman grew up there with her brother, sister, and loving parents.

Back in February the sophomore at Kalamazoo College called her mom to say she had a bad headache. No one knew it was bacterial meningitis. That night, Emily was admitted to the hospital, where she later died.

Emily had been vaccinated against meningitis, but doctors say the strain she contracted is not covered by vaccines in the U.S. When it was clear she was brain dead and would not recover, her family was faced with a painful decision - whether to donate her organs. At first they said "no."

But a split second change of heart changed countless lives.

Last month, the Stillmans met 34-year-old Guy Mulligan of Ohio, his wife Amy, and their four and six-year-old sons. Guy, a physician whose heart was failing after surviving childhood cancer, received Emily's heart.

The families spent two days looking at old photos, sharing stories, and getting to know each other.

The Stillmans gave Guy a glass heart that once hung in Emily's room. It says "love" and "blessed."

Emily's lung, liver and kidneys were also donated.  The family has met two other recipients and they're still waiting to hear from two more.

The Stillman's are creating the Emily Stillman Foundation to educate people about bacterial meningitis, the importance of vaccines, and organ donation.

They hope to inspire others to give the gift of life, and change lives, like they did.

This story originally appeared on MyFoxDetroit.com.

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