By Joe McFarlane
A heart transplant recipient sent the step-mother and father of the son whose heart he received a teddy bear which contained a tearjerking recording of their late child’s heartbeat.
On January 22 2019, Stephanie, 46, and John Reid, 49 received an unexpected visit from a Virginia state police officer.
The officer had the duty to reveal the devastating news that their 16-year-old son, Dakota, had been a passenger in a serious car accident and had been flown to a VCU critical hospital for his life-threatening injuries.
At 6:34pm on January 23, Dakota was declared brain dead, resulting in the young man passing away.
The grieving family discussed organ donations, with religious father John feeling that God had called on him to donate Dakota’s organs.
On January 25 the family said goodbye to their beloved son for the last time as his body was taken to an operation room so his organs could be recovered and donated.
John said: “I overheard my niece talking about a friend who had a 19-year-old son on dialysis. I ran down the hall to catch the organ donor lady to ask if we could select someone for a kidney. She said sure he could, so we went to get his info.
“It turned out the 19 year old was registered at the same hospital as Dakota. Later the nurse came in and told me they were a match. So the kidney transplant was a success.
“We have received letters from multiple recipients, such as a 21-year-old thanking us for Dakota’s corneas as he could now see for the first time.
“We have received another letter from a farmer who got a kidney and pancreas.”
Within the year that passed, John and Stephanie also received a message from a young woman who had tracked the family down.
The woman was the daughter of the man who had received Dakota’s heart.
The recipient’s name was Robert O’Conner, and John was quick to hop on a call and talk to the man whose life was saved by his son’s heart.
John said: “We have grown very close. He goes by the name Bob. I tell him we are blood kin now!We are family.”
On February 5th 2020, a month after their heartfelt telephone conversation, a package arrived at the families home in Mckenney, Virginia.
John opened the box, which revealed a cute, happy, smiling teddy bear.
The gift had been made and sent to the family by Bob, who had arranged at his one-year heart check up for the echocardiogram team to copy a recording of his heartbeat so he could it into the bear.
Looking lovingly at the gift, John tenderly held the bear close to him as he began to break down hearing his son’s heartbeat as the tearjerking moment was captured by Stephanie.
John said: “I was overwhelmed and so happy. I would lay my head on Dakota’s chest and listen to his heartbeat every night up until the last night. Thanks to Bob O’Conner I can continue to listen to his heartbeat.
“It is easy to say no to being an organ donor until you are on the receiving end and need your life to be saved. It is a powerful and honourable experience for both the donor and recipient and I will do it again, including my own organs.”