In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

December 2, 2014

A Son’s Heart Beats on …

By In the Loop


Another story about thankfulness and family was grabbing headlines last week. That will happen, we suppose, when the headline is “Family hears son's heartbeat in another man's chest.” The story told by KARE 11-TV starts with Tom Meeks, who spent three years on the transplant list waiting for a heart after being diagnosed with amyloidosis. After being rejected for transplant elsewhere, Meeks came to Mayo Clinic looking for a glimmer of hope. As KARE 11 reports, “Meeks said doctors didn't make any promises but told him they would run the test to see if he was eligible to be placed on a waiting list.” When he got the go-ahead, Meeks and his wife moved to Rochester from Washington state and began the lengthy wait.

His call came last March after another family received a “call that no family wants” to receive. Matthew Heisler’s family would learn the devastating news that their son, just 21 and a student at the University of North Dakota, had died in a house fire. He had decided to be a donor – at age 16, when he received his driver’s license – which meant a piece of him would live on in Meeks, along with numerous others. "He made the decision that if life ever slipped away from him, he would give life to someone else," Jared Heisler, Matthew’s father, told KARE 11. 

Matthew’s generosity helped 60 people in all, including two kidney recipients and a liver recipient, along with Meeks. The family recently received something of a gift when they had a chance to meet Meeks and listen to their son’s heart beating inside the man he helped to save. That reunion is something you really need to watch, and we've embedded it below. (There were tissues involved. You might want to grab a few, yourself.)

If there’s a better way to show the power of organ donation, we haven’t seen it. And millions have seen the story of Matthew’s gift, as KARE 11’s story not only went viral but hit the national news. We’re told, by folks who understand how to count these things, that it reached several million of Twitter feeds and had nearly 200,000 impressions on Facebook. And that’s just through Mayo’s accounts. The story also hit NBC News, USA Today, Fox News, Redbook magazine, Buzzfeed and Mashable. And E! Online. Not to mention media hits in Canada the UK, Germany, France, Australia, Ireland, Canada and New Zealand. The story was covered in around 180 media outlets in all, plus their social media channels, we presume.

Hit us up with your media impressions by sharing your comments below. You can share this story with others while you’re here, spreading the good word about organ donation and Matthew’s gift.

Tags: Amyloidosis, heart transplant, Patient Stories

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