The family of a 21-year-old man who died in March heard his heart beating again after meeting a Vietnam veteran who received it in a life-saving transplant.
Matt Heisler was a student at the University of North Dakota when he was killed in an off-campus house fire leaving behind parents Jared and Cheryl, and younger sister Casey.
“I was sitting on the steps and I heard my dad say, ‘Are you sure it’s Matt?’” Casey told KARE 11. “I thought I was dreaming.”
Meanwhile Tom Meeks, who moved from his native Washington to Rochester, Minn. to be near the Mayo Clinic -- one of the only hospitals who would place him on a donor list -- received the call he had been waiting three years for, KARE 11 reported.
Meeks was diagnosed with a rare disease amyloidosis, and because of his age and other health concerns, had been rejected by five hospitals for a transplant that doctors said was his only hope, according to the report. Amyloidosis is caused by a buildup of an abnormal protein, called amyloid, in the heart, kidneys, liver, spleen, nervous system or digestive tract, according to the Mayo Clinic. There is no cure for the condition, which can lead to organ failure.
The Heisler family met Meeks in November, and each relative listened to Meeks’ chest with a stethoscope to hear the heart of their beloved son and brother beating again.
“I woke up this morning and told Matt that Mom and Dad are coming today,” Meeks told KARE 11.
Cameras were on hand for the emotional, tearful meeting between the families.
“This is awesome,” Jared said listening to his son’s heart.
“The heart that I grew up with and felt in all of my hugs when I hugged him is still out there somewhere,” Casey told KARE.
The families have connected through Facebook and plan to meet again in March when Meeks goes for a checkup, and also around the anniversary of Matt’s death, according to the report.
Matt checked off the donor box on his license when he was 16. Aside from Meeks, Matt also helped two women who each received one of his kidneys, and a 61-year-old man who received his liver.