Overdose victim donates heart to woman with congestive heart failure

Brennan Mitchell (Source: Family)
Brennan Mitchell (Source: Family)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - It is "Go Red" day, the kickoff for the American Heart Association's month-long campaign to raise awareness of cardiovascular disease, the leading killer of women in the United States. But for two Mid-South families, Friday is about much more than just wearing red.

"We're going to have to put you in the hospital, and you have to stay there until you get a heart," said Stephenie Hamlet.

That's what Hamlet's doctors told her in 2015, more than a decade after she was first diagnosed with congestive heart failure. She was in the hospital for three weeks waiting.

"I got the call that they had a perfect match, and it was mine," she said.

Stephanie had her transplant on Christmas Day, and was out of the hospital two weeks later. But months went by and she wanted to know who her donor was. Little did she know, the donor's family had the same request.

"When you hear that you have your new heart, in my instance, I was like, 'oh my God, someone had to die.' I wonder who this person was," Hamlet said.

"He knew that we struggled with him struggling," said Kristen Ballard.

Kristen Ballard said her son Brennan had a history of depression, leading to drug addiction. The 19-year old Germantown High School graduate died of a heroin overdose. But Ballard had no idea her son had signed up to be an organ donor.

His choice saved five lives. Stephenie got his heart.

"His dash may not seem as long as most, but he did a lot more things than a lot of people I know," said Ballard.

The two families have become fast friends, with Stephenie even playing a part in Kristen's recent wedding.

"Through Stephenie, I have the ability to still have my son," Ballard said.

It is a second chance at life for Stephenie, now taking the opportunity to urge Mid-South women to make sure their heart health is a priority.

"Your heart is what you need to live," she said, "If you don't take care of your heart, the rest of your organs cannot work."

Unbelievably, Hamlet was also diagnosed with breast cancer and had to take chemotherapy. She told WMC Action News 5 there were risks to her new heart, but thankfully it was not damaged by the treatments.

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