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Carolyn Glaspy, the mother of former NFL player Chris Henry, stands with the four organ recipients, from left, James Benton, Brian Polk, Tom Elliott and Donna Arnold.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: John W. Adkisson / For The Times

Carolyn Glaspy holds a high school portrait of son Chris Henry, who played for the Cincinnati Bengals.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: John W. Adkisson / For The Times

Carolyn Glaspy hugs Brian Polk, 33, a dump truck driver who received one of Chris Henry’s kidneys. He would have died without the transplant.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: John W. Adkisson / For The Times

Carolyn Glaspy listens to her son’s lungs breathe inside the chest of Tom Elliott. He had once been given three to five years to live, but now can walk a mile.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: John W. Adkisson / For The Times

Carolyn Glaspy shakes hands with Tom Elliott as Brian Polk, left, and Donna Arnold, right, look on. All three received at least one organ from Glaspy's son.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: John W. Adkisson / For The Times

Ashley Benton, the daughter of organ recipient James Benton, tears up during the meeting at the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C. Her father, once left bed-ridden by progressive liver disease, received Henry’s liver about a year ago.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: John W. Adkisson / For The Times

Donna Arnold, 51, a diabetic with failing kidneys, received Henry’s kidney and pancreas. "I’m so blessed.... Thanks for giving us all another chance," she said to Chris Henry's mother.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: John W. Adkisson / For The Times

Brian Polk says he feels like he’s 23 instead of 33. He jogs and swims and lifts weights, and is now a vegetarian whose weight, once a life-threatening 400 pounds, is down to 280.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: John W. Adkisson / For The Times

Tom Elliott, who once had been given three to five years to live, received Chris Henry's lungs. He can now walk a mile and ride a bike.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: John W. Adkisson / For The Times

James Benton, once left bed-ridden by progressive liver disease, received Chris Henry's liver.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: John W. Adkisson / For The Times

Surgeon John Greene worked on former NFL player Chris Henry when he arrived at the hospital after he was thrown from the back of a pickup truck in December 2009.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: John W. Adkisson / For The Times

Transplant surgeon Lon Eskind at Carolinas Medical Center removed Chris Henry's liver.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: John W. Adkisson / For The Times

Dan Hayes, medical director of the transplant program at Carolinas Medical Center.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: John W. Adkisson / For The Times

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One donor gives four people the gift of life

NFL wide receiver Chris Henry, who died last year at age 26, left his legacy through the donation of his organs. His mother, Carolyn Glaspy, made the decision, saying she wanted her son to be remembered for giving the gift of life.

Her decision would forge an irrevocable bond with four families whose loved ones received Henry’s organs. They met face to face at a Charlotte, N.C., hospital earlier this month, an extraordinary rendezvous in the recent history of organ donations. Normally donors are anonymous, but Glaspy longed to meet the recipients whose replenished lives promised redemption for her lost son.

At the same hospital 11 months earlier, her son had been declared brain dead after being thrown from the back of a pickup truck. At that time, all four donors were seriously ill and in desperate need of organ transplants.  Today, they are healthy — and thankful for Henry’s gift.

See photos of the reunion by photographer John W. Adkisson and read David Zucchino’s full story, “Lost life revives four others.”

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