Blended families come together in all sorts of ways. The most often, of course, being the result of divorce and marriage. For Jennifer and Rick Fuller and Julie Logan Brooks, though, their two families are forever joined though death and life.
That death came 21 years ago, when Jennifer Fuller's son, Deon, died suddenly from meningitis at the age of four.
"(The doctor) said, 'I am so sorry but there is nothing else we can do. Your son is brain dead,'" Fuller said.
Deon's heart, though, went on to save the life of a two-year-old Modesto girl, Malysa Logan, Logan Brooks' daughter.
The connection of the two families, though, was just beginning.
While the identities of donors are not typically shared with recipients, and vice versa, both Fuller and Logan Brooks had gleaned clues as to who each other were. Fuller had relatives in Modesto who sent her a local newspaper story about Malysa receiving a heart not long after Deon's death. Logan Brooks, meanwhile, had glimpsed Deon's name on a medical form she was not supposed to see.
So, one year after the transplant, when both women found themselves at a celebration for donors and recipients, Logan Brooks approached Fuller.
"I remember kind of grabbing a hold of her arm and said, 'Can I talk to you?'" Logan Brooks said. "She said, 'Yes.' And I just said, 'My daughter has your son's heart.'"
"Then she said the most amazing words," Fuller said. "She said, 'Would you like to meet her? She's in the lobby.'"
It was the beginning of a 20-year love story. The Fullers and the Logans grew ever closer. The Fullers were there for birthdays, graduations, and transplant anniversary. They reveled in the fact that Deon's heart made it all possible.
But Deon's heart can't do it anymore. It is failing and Malysa has been told she will soon need another transplant.
"I really don't know how long until that call is made," Malysa said.
When the call is made to go on the transplant list, the Logans say they have insurance to cover the medical costs. However, the family estimates they will need $100,000 for care and living expenses after the transplant.
It is money Logan Brooks says her family does not have.
"We were told right away we needed to fundraise," Logan Brooks said.
She won't have to, because, once again, in Malysa's time of need the Fullers are there.
"So we called Julie, Malysa's mom, and said, 'Would you be OK if we spearhead this project?'" Rick Fuller said.
Just because they saved Malysa's life once, the Fullers believe, is no reason not to do it again.
"I can't even imagine life without them," Logan Brooks said. "They are absolutely amazing."
"I think it's just pure, unconditional love," Malysa said.
If all goes well, one day the biological link between these two families will be gone but their bond will be stronger than ever.