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Stories of Hope: Special bond formed through organ donation

In 1987, Rennell Burnham Roberts and her husband Bruce were watching a news segment about organ donation. The couple had a conversation about what they would want done if one of them were to pass away. A short time later, Bruce died in a car accident. When the doctor asked Rennell what her husband’s wishes were, she knew exactly what he wanted. What happened after that began a friendship Rennell never imagined she would have.

Jim Garchow was a staple in the Idaho Falls community as a radio broadcaster. He often ate at Jakers’ restaurant, where Rennell worked at the time. She never knew it was him, until one day he came into the restaurant to celebrate a family birthday he didn’t think he’d be alive for, but he made it thanks to a heart transplant. That transplant, came from Rennel’s husband Bruce.

“Back in 1987, you weren’t supposed to know who received your organs, ” said Roberts. She credits the small town feel of Idaho Falls and the notoriety of Jim of finding out who received her husbands heart. As soon as the pair found out it started a friendship of many years.

Jim Garchow passed away in 2009. Rennell spent time with him over the years and made many memories. “Jim would let me reach over and touch his heart and I could feel it beating…he didn’t mind,” said Roberts.

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