A family who lost their hero husband and father says they’ve gained a new family member: the man who received his liver through organ donation.
On June 19, Cletus Schnieders III was eating a steak dinner with his family, wife Carrie and their three children — sons Trenton, 9, and Cletie, 4, and daughter Samantha, 2 — in their Cincinnati home when he started to choke. “I was in the other room talking to Clete, and I was getting annoyed because he wasn’t answering me,” Carrie, 30, a stay-at-home mom, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “When I walked over to him, I realized he was choking. Then he collapsed.” Carrie called 911 and began chest compressions until paramedics arrived, but after two days in the hospital, Cletus, 41, was declared brain dead.
Cletus, who his wife of five years describes as a “fantasy football guru,” was an organ donor and his liver found its way to a lucky recipient: a father-of-four named John Mock who suffered from a genetic autoimmune disease called Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, and who registered as a potential patient only six hours before Cletus’s liver was extracted. “Out of 156 people waiting for Clete’s liver, John was the only match,” says Carrie. “They told him, ‘Can you be here in an hour?'”
Meanwhile, at Mercy West Hospital, Cletus’s family prepared to say goodbye in a touching ceremony called “The Honor Walk” during which they lined the hallway to witness his body transported from the intensive care unit to the operating room. “‘Clete coached baseball, so many team members attended the ceremony,” says Carrie. “It meant so much to Trent and me.”
As Mock was wheeled into surgery on June 22, he instructed his daughter Becca to get in touch with Cletus’s family. “I wanted to thank this family for saving my life — I would be dead without them — and offer my condolences,” Mock tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
Carrie felt the same — on the day of Cletus’s June 27 funeral, she mailed a letter to LifeCenter, a Cincinnati organization that facilitates organ and tissue donation, and asked for help tracking down Mock. “I really wanted to meet him,” says Carrie. “I was excited.”
On July 18, Mock and the Schnieders family (Cletus’s parents, stepparents, and his wife and children) met at LifeCenter in a teary moment captured by local news station WLWT 5. “Meeting John has helped tremendously with my grief,” says Carrie.
Adds Mock, “After the first two minutes, it felt like we had known each other forever, just like a real family.”
Mock has undergone a physical transformation postsurgery: He now craves chili from a restaurant called Skyline — Cletus’s favorite meal — and he jokes that because Cletus was a “hairy guy,” his own facial hair is now growing quickly.
The family previously relied on Cletus’s salary as a grocery store clerk, and now the financial responsibilities belong to Carrie, who is also busy driving Samantha, who has Down syndrome, to therapy appointments. A family friend has established a GoFundMe page to help cover the family’s bills, which has raised close to $18 thousand of its $15 thousand goal.
Mock is now an honorary Schnieders and speaks to Carrie weekly, and the families are planning a potluck reunion in October. Mock will bring the chili.
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