Colton Jensen loved football, bull riding and his job as a firefighter.

The 18-year-old from Hoskins had just graduated from Winside High School, but died in an accidental shooting May 22.

Part of Jensen lives on. Members of his family met with recipients of his organs Saturday at Bryan West Campus before some of the group headed to the Nebraska-Michigan State football game.

Emily Jensen, Colton's mother, had the idea to invite the recipients of her son's organs to Lincoln for a Husker game as a way to connect with them over one of Colton's favorite things. On Nov. 7, she took to social media in search of people who would donate tickets for Saturday's game.

Husker fans shared her Facebook post and some contributed tickets.

"He had a heart of gold, and we just want to see it carried on," Emily Jensen said of her son. "That way, we just don't want to see it end after his passing; just want to hear the stories from others that are living on through him."

Mark Blank of Lincoln received Colton's heart, and his right kidney went to Chelsea Porter of Valentine. Both were at the hospital Saturday, the first time either had met Jensen's family.

Blank, 59, was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation seven years ago. He was later found to have a hole in his heart between two chambers.

Blank needed a ventricular-assist device to pump blood after one side of his heart enlarged and began to fail. Two months after being placed on the transplant list, he got the news that he would receive a new heart.

Blank said he had a feeling the donor's family would try to reach out to him at some point, and they began communicating about two weeks ago.

"It just brings me a little bit of closure about the family, about Colton," he said. "I'm sure this is the start of a relationship between us."

Porter, 31, had her colon removed 14 years ago to prevent cancer. Her pancreas began having issues as well.

Porter was able to get a new pancreas and part of a colon, but in December 2016, her kidneys began to fail.

She wasn't expecting to hear from Jensen's family members, but started to communicate with them through Facebook and Snapchat in July.

"Being able to meet them and everything was great," she said.

Through Nebraska Organ Recovery, Jensen's family was able to reach out to several other recipients of his organs.

Although Blank wasn't able to go to the football game, Porter and the Jensen family went together.

Josh Jensen, Colton's father, said the meeting brought him "crazy" emotions. He thanked Nebraska Organ Recovery for allowing him to see the impact his son's organs made.

"They were amazing through it all, still amazing," he said.

Emily Jensen said she's thankful the recipients were willing to respond and meet.

"It’s very overwhelming, but comforting at the same time, to know he's still living on, (and that the recipients) are doing well."

Blank said he wakes up every day thankful for Jensen's donation.

"There was a tragedy in all of this, and I wouldn’t be here without the generosity of Colton's family," he said.

Porter also expressed her gratitude for those who choose to donate organs.

"Without them, not all of us would have the option to go on," she said. "So, I feel that thankfulness and nervousness and everything else (meeting them), but really grateful to be able to live on, because (of) people like that who do give their organs."

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7241 or cspilinek@journalstar.com.


Newsroom intern

Newsroom intern at the Journal Star.

Newsroom intern

Newsroom intern at the Journal Star.

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