A bittersweet moment for one California mom was captured by local news cameras as she listened to the beat of her son’s heart for the first time in three years. It just happened to be in somebody else’s chest.
It was an emotional meeting Jan. 29 at Phoenix Children’s Hospital in Phoenix, Ariz., as Heather Clark met with Esther Gonzalez and her four-year-old daughter, Jordan Drake, for the first time.
“That’s your son,” Gonzalez told a sobbing Clark as she listened to Gonzalez’s daughter through a stethoscope – and listened, in turn, to her own son’s heart beat, years after his death.
Clark lost her son Lukas in 2013 at just seven months old. In the midst of her grief, she says she was determined to make something positive out of her loss, and agreed to donate his organs.
“I knew if Lukas could prevent another family from experiencing the loss that I felt, that’s what I needed to do,” Clark told CBS News.
Last November, she learned Lukas’ heart had been donated to Drake, and got in contact with the family of the young girl whose life her son had saved.
“This beauty is the girl who has Lukas’ heart beating in her,” Clark wrote in a Facebook post. “One day I will meet her and squeeze her so tightly! Thank you to her mom and dad who allow me to be a part of their lives. This is the best Christmas present I could have asked for.”
Born with a congenital heart defect, Drake spent much of her young life in hospital. After undergoing six heart surgeries and suffering seizures, a stroke and brain hemorrhaging, it doctors decided she needed a new heart.
That’s where Lukas Clark’s heart enters the picture. Drake was one of three lives the non-profit group Donate Life Arizona says the boy’s organs helped save.
“Amid the unthinkable grief of losing her son Lukas, Heather made a decision that saved three lives,” the group said in a press release. “Jordan received Lukas’ precious heart when she was just 18 months old. Yesterday, Heather heard her son’s heartbeat for the first time in nearly three years.”
For Gonzalez, the emotional challenge of thanking the woman who saved her daughter’s life – even though she lost her son in the process – was nearly overwhelming
“The day [Gonzalez] got it, she said, ‘How do I thank this woman – a thank you sounds so small,'” Donate Life Arizona media relations co-ordinator Jacqueline Keidel told CBS News. “She would take out a piece of paper, start to write a letter and then couldn’t.”
On the day of their meeting, in front of a bevy of local news cameras, the emotions brought both women to tears.
“It was magical, it was crazy, it was sad,” Clark told CBS News. “There’s absolutely no word, no explanation for it besides just magic and wonderful.”
Clark says she plans to attend all the major milestones in Drake’s life such as her graduation and her wedding.
“Knowing that [Jordan is] so smart, and so respectful … it just makes it so much easier,” Clark said. “Because she’s just exactly what I could picture Lukas being right now.”
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