It had been 11 months since Bill Conner lost his 20-year-old daughter, Abbey and he felt that he should do something to honour his daughter’s short life. Before she died, Abbey made a pledge to become an organ donor. So, on May 22, Conner started riding his bicycle and made a tour across the country to meet the man who received heart transplant from his deceased daughter.
“This is what she would want me to do,” Conner told CBS News in an interview.
Conner travelled as far as 2600 miles from his hometown in Madison, Wisconsin to Fort Lauderdale, Florida to visit Broward Health Medical Center, the hospital which was responsible in recovering Abbey’s organs for donation back in January.
The unfortunate incident which took Abbey’s life happened in last winter break.
Abbey and her brother were found unconscious with their face down in a resort pool
They were having a winter break vacation in a resort in Cancun.
When they were found and pulled out of the water, Abbey had already suffered from severe brain damage. She was then flew to Fort Lauderdale where she was kept on life support until doctors could harvest her organs for transplant.
Back when she was 16 years old, just after she got her driving license, Abbey decided to be an organ donor
It was previously discussed in their family.
Conner said, “She registered. It’s something that she knew a long time ago. Unfortunately, it came to fruition, but that’s Abbey. If you had her as a friend she always had your back, and for her to be helping people in need — that fits who she is.”
As Conner and his family bid their last farewell to Abbey, another drama played out in a hospital a few states south. A 21-year-old man from Lafayette, Louisiana suffered from a heart attack.
The man, Loumonth Jack, Jr. was told his days were numbered
He could die any day if he did not get a heart transplant.
Then a miracle happened. Abbey’s donated organ allows Jack Jr. to survive.
Conner said, “He was given 10 days to live. With Abbey and the way things went — he’s alive today.”
Abbey donated four organs, allowing four men aged 20 to 60 years old to live, Conner said. She also donated her eyes and other tissues.
When Conner told the Florida donation centre that was in charge of Abbey’s organ donation about his decision to honour his daughter by the bicycle ride tour, the centre sent a letter to every recipient of Abbey’s organ, asking them if they would like to meet the young woman’s father
“The only person who has responded at this point is Jack Jr., the heart recipient,” Conner said.
Conner was given Jack Jr.’s contact information and reached out to the young man before they further arranged to meet in Baton Rouge on Father’s Day, 1,400 miles (approximately 2250 km) into Conner’s trip.
When Conner met Jack on that afternoon, he felt like he already knew him
“Knowing he’s alive because of Abbey, Abbey is alive inside of him — it’s her heart having him stand up straight,” Conner said. “I was happy for him and his family, and at the same time, I got to reunite with my daughter.”
After the duo shared a long hug, Jack Jr. pulled out a stethoscope so that Conner could listen to her daughter’s heartbeat for the first time since her death in January
Both of them were in tears after Conner listened to her daughter’s heartbeat
“She saved me and I can’t repay her. I wish I could but I can’t,” Jack told CBS in an interview in Baton Rouge.
“All I can do is send my love to her family”
The family made a recording of Jack’s heart so that Conner could listen to it as he rides.
After spending a little more time together, Conner continued on his tour to spread and raise awareness to the public of the importance of organ donation. He also took this chance to share his daughter’s story along the way.
Watch the touching moment when Conner listens to Abbey’s heartbeat here
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