Grief meets gratitude: Donor families see lives saved by loved ones

Heart donor families meet recipients

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Friday was an emotional day for six families who for the first time heard the heart donated to a stranger by a loved one.

In the room, grief met gratitude. Families whose loved ones died and then donated their organs so others could live.

They came face to face with the people who received those gifts.

"All my nurses came in and said, 'surprise, we got a heart!'" said Richard Edmonson, a heart donor recipient.

That was almost two years ago for Edmonson. Edmonson's failing heart placed him on the transplant list after a widowmaker heart attack.

"All the sudden I fell on the floor. Died. And I was dead for about 30 minutes," he said.

The day Edmonson got a second chance at life, Kaliyah McGowan said goodbye to her father.

"We were already at the hard part anyway, which was just accepting it," McGowan said.

A car hit McGowan's father as he walked across the street. When the rest of her family said no to donation, McGowan said yes.

It was up to McGowan to make medical decisions for her father.

"I am an organ donor. My mom is an organ donor. I felt how I felt, and I knew that I wanted to do it," she said.

On Friday, the two met for the first time.

Edmonson was one of six heart transplant recipients who got the opportunity to thank the families of their donors during a special event at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis.

It was the first time in two years this daughter heard her father's heartbeat again.

"I was so glad you could get his heart," McGowan said.

"I just hope to do proud I am taking care of your father's heart," Edmonson said.

It's the ultimate gift and now unbreakable bond.

"I hope everyone is able to learn from this donate organs because it saves lives. It saved my life," Edmonson said.

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