Six Transplant Recipients Meet Donor Families

May 31 • 2018

Organ Donation: A Second Chance at Life

On April 27, 2018, six heart transplant recipients met the families of their donors in the largest known recipient-donor meeting of its kind. The event, which took place at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis, offered recipients the opportunity to express their gratitude for a second chance at life through organ donation.

Heart transplant recipients included a Vietnam war veteran, a former educator, a great-grandfather, a grandfather of 10 and a mother of two. Surrounded by Baptist transplant team members and loved ones, the six recipients shared their stories with the crowd, while families of those who donated organs could hear their loved one’s heart beat once again.

A Path to the Baptist Heart Transplant Program

The Baptist Heart Transplant Program performed its first transplant in 1985. Since then, surgeons have performed 385 heart transplants, including providing 20 people with a new heart in the last year. Troy Cates, a veteran and great-grandfather, is one of those recipients.

In 2016, 19-year-old Parker McGill died in an all-terrain vehicle accident. His family chose organ donation to honor him. In what was a memorable meeting, Parker’s family had the opportunity to hear his heart beat again.

“I know Parker was a good person,” said Cates, who had six heart attacks and was in hospice for more than a year. “I could feel it as soon as I got his heart.”

A Small Decision With a Powerful Impact

Like Cates, Richard Edmonson felt a similar transformation when he received a new heart from his donor. Edmonson, who has returned to college to pursue a degree in nuclear medicine, said organ donation may seem like a small decision, but it’s one that has a powerful impact on families.

“I would not be here if it wasn’t for the McGowan family,” said Edmonson. “I have a whole new outlook on life.”

Kaliyah McGowan was instrumental in Edmonson’s survival. When her father died after being struck by a car, she turned to the organ donation program at Baptist.

“I’m an organ donor, and my mom is an organ donor,” said McGowan. “I knew that I wanted to do it. I’m so happy that I did because my dad saved someone else’s life. That was so important to me. I’ve received letters from everyone at the hospital through the organ donation program. I’m really happy with my decision.”

During the event, McGowan and many others spent several minutes holding a stethoscope to their loved one’s heart, in what was both a tearful reunion and a brand-new connection.

“I hope everybody can learn from this,” said Edmonson. “Donating organs saves lives. It saved my life.”

Learn more about organ donation and the Baptist Heart Transplant Program at the Baptist Heart Institute, where you can find cardiovascular services, educational resources and transplant specialists.