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Teen who died from ladder fall gives gift of life through organ donation

Sixteen-year-old Emily Ramm died after falling from a ladder at a school in Kitsap County, Wash. in August. (Courtesy the Ramm family)

SEATTLE (KOMO) - Emily Ramm’s life was suddenly cut short, but that has given second chances to others.

The 16-year-old's decision to become an organ donor means her family and those she helped are no longer strangers. Now, a circle of three families are forever connected by this gift of life.

Daniel Mendoza wears a heart on his sleeve. He’s an Army veteran who served 27 months in Iraq and loves his country.

Tony Moral is a family man with a wife and three kids depending on him.

For four-and-a-half years, both men desperately needed something very few are willing to give.

“I felt like it would never come,” said Mendoza.

Little did they know, their day would come - together.

"She just wanted to find a place to see the meteor shower,” said John Ramm Jr., Emily’s father.

Emily was stargazing with friends, climbing higher for a better view, when she fell off a ladder at a school construction site in Kitsap County on Aug. 13. That fall ended her life.

Emily was a cheerleader, a softball player, a snowboarder, and a big sister who had big dreams.

"Emily wanted to be president of the U.S.” said Ramm.

Ramm describes his daughter as a bright and selfless teen with a mega-watt smile, who just a month before this tragedy had announced her decision to become an organ donor.

"That's what she would have wanted," said Ramm, in tears.

Moral received Emily's right kidney. Mendoza got her left one.

Just 24 hours after receiving this priceless gift, Mendoza received a text.

"I sent him this, ‘My name is Tara Vasey. I'm Emily Ramm's aunt. I hear you may have received her kidney’," explained Tara Vasey.

Mendoza was at a loss for words, but so grateful, he defied doctor’s orders to attend Emily's memorial service just two weeks after the transplant.

"I felt like it's the least I could do,” explained Mendoza.

Vasey and Mendoza met for the first time at the service.

"To be able to touch his hand - even just a fist bump - is awesome," said Vasey.

While in the hospital, Mendoza never knew Emily's other kidney was next door inside a recovering Moral.

"I didn't know who he was. Somehow, he knew who I was. He'd see me walking around and doing my laps in the hallway, getting my exercise," said Mendoza. "But I didn't really pay attention to anyone else. I was in my own little word."

“Every time I would try to visit Daniel, he was asleep or he was way ahead of me walking down the hallway,” said Moral.

It would be a couple of months before the men would meet each other and Emily's entire extended family.

They were strangers now brought together by a 16-year old girl.

"The second chance is really great,” said Moral.

"It feels good. It's nice to know the donor's side of the family and house, get to know who they were as a person,” said Mendoza.

"I feel like I've known them for a really long time. It' really weird. They're my brothers in a way," said Vasey.

Moral and Mendoza are now brothers who never forget the second chance they’ve been given.

"It's hard, because you're grateful for somebody else helping you," said Mendoza. "Then again, somebody had to lose their life for it, so it's bittersweet, I guess."

It’s bittersweet for a family suffering a great loss. But they are now finding comfort knowing part of Emily will always live on.

"We gave this gift as a gift, we don't expect anything in return," said Vasey.

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