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Organ donation a comfort to family of late Highlands student

November 9, 2018

Nothing can take away the pain of losing a child, but for parents David Bussotti and Joy Krumenacker, knowing their son’s, organs will help other people brings some comfort.

Eli Bussotti, 17, died Sunday from injuries suffered in a car accident Friday in Brackenridge.

His parents honored his choice to donate his organs -- a decision his dad said he made only months ago when he first got his driver’s license. Bussotti recalled his son asking if he should check the box to be an organ donor and his dad explaining what it meant.

“He says, ‘Yeah, I would do that,’” Bussotti, of Tarentum, recalls his son saying. “A hundred times I said it in the hospital to everybody.”

The people receiving Eli’s organs include a 1-year-old boy who will get half of his liver and a 45-year-old man who will get his lungs.

“At a minimum, Eli is giving eight people a new chance of life,” Krumenacker, of Brackenridge said. “He’s our hero.”

Eli’s choice to be an organ donor exemplified the compassion he had for others, something his friends and family speak of often.

“The positive outcomes really just kind of fill the wound in my heart with so much love and so much light,” Krumenacker said.

The family has seen an outpouring of support from the community, with hundreds of people contributing to a GoFundMe account set up by a friend to help the family. It raised nearly $13,000 in just 24 hours.

“I am just humbled by the amount of love and support,” Krumenacker said. “That love and support has been my strength.”

Bussotti said he had no idea the account was even set up until friends started mentioning it.

“It was just incredible,” he said.

Eli is survived by his parents, his sister, Ava Bussotti, 13, and stepdad Michael Mariani. He also is survived by his beloved dogs Hondo, Cruz, Luna and Sophie, and a bearded dragon, Mojo.

Eli also is survived by his girlfriend, Kaliah Pratt, 17, who said she is comforted by the maxims Eli lived his life by, including not caring what anyone thought of him and making an effort to stay happy and positive.

Kaliah hopes everyone will celebrate Eli’s life and not just mourn his loss. She prepared a passage for Eli that she shared with the Tribune-Review.

“You taught me how to love and let go of anything that isn’t love. You taught me to be a good person -- even when it’s hard -- and how to be strong. You always lived in the moment and now I’ll do the same. I love you more than I ever thought I could.”

Funeral arrangements still were being finalized Monday evening, but visitation will be open to the public. Details will be released when they become available.

“I want as many people who loved Eli to be there and to share stories, because this is going to be a celebration of him,” Krumenacker said.

Krumenacker said everyone with Allegheny General Hospital and the Center for Organ Recovery & Education went above and beyond to comfort the family during this time, including the CORE staff who recorded Eli’s heartbeat and put it in a Build-A-Bear to have forever.

Bussotti said, although this has been the most difficult time of his life, he is trying to look ahead to what Eli’s life will bring to others.

“Let’s move forward and let the miracles happen,” Bussotti said.

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