NEENAH – The mother of an Appleton shooting victim and the recipient of her son’s heart met for the first time Wednesday afternoon.
On Dec. 8, 2013, 25-year-old Josh Richards of Green Bay was shot in the head at Luna Lounge in downtown Appleton. Richards’ family donated his organs.
Richards’ mother, Jackie Pische, met Ben Adler at Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah.
“Very unlikely that I could have lived another 24 hours because the blood clot would have went into my heart which would have probably given me a massive stroke,” said Adler.
The 47-year-old Adler says his life was saved after Richards’ life was taken.
“Losing Josh was devastating, but seeing Ben today and his family is awesome,” said Pische.
Wisconsin organ donation staff coordinated Wednesday’s meeting.
“It really does come full circle,” said Pische. “So proud of Josh’s decision when he was 16 to do this, and to see somebody do as well as Ben has with the organ donor program, it makes it all worth it.”
“I didn’t think I was going to live,” added Adler.
Richards’ organs also saved six other lives. Doctors were able to transplant his lungs, kidneys, pancreas and liver to other people in the region.
“It’s good to know that everybody’s doing well that got Josh’s organs, and we’re excited to meet Ben today,” said Pische.
Adler lives in the Chicago area and manages a restaurant. He says he’s had five heart attacks, and heart problems run in his family.
Adler now has a new one.
“I was excited when I woke up, and I knew I lived,” he recalled. “I can’t tell you how excited I was. I can’t even describe it. I told the doctors I felt better than I had in 20 years, and that’s not an exaggeration.”
Pische says she first contacted Adler at the end of last year.
“Our first letter went out New Year’s Eve,” she said. “That was after the holidays and we decided things had to change, and they had to turn around. And we wrote our first letter and Ben responded.”
A new flag was raised outside the hospital after the meeting. It says “Donate Life.” The flag will fly daily to honor organ, tissue and eye donors.
Pische and Adler also shared their story with a crowd.
“People need to sign up to be organ donors,” said Pische.
She remembers when her son signed up.
“I think the quote was, ‘This is a no-brainer.’ I mean, he just looked at me and said, ‘What am I going to do with them?’ That’s the kind of person Josh was,” said Pische. “He would have done anything for anybody.”
Of the 122,000 people on the national waiting list for an organ transplant, 2,200 are in Wisconsin.
Theda Clark encourages people to help reduce that number by becoming registered donors at www.YesIWillWisconsin.com.
Chong Lee is charged in Richards’ death. He faces a trial on an intentional homicide charge. It’s set for Dec. 15.