April is Donate Life Month - see how being an organ donor can make a real difference

April is Donate Life Month. It’s a time to focus on the renewal of life in the spring, and the hope that is given through the gift of organ donation.

March 5, 2018 marked a year two mothers thought they would never see. One mother mourned the anniversary of her daughter’s death, while the other remembered the day her life was saved.

Lydia Stewart, of Amanda, Ohio, was 18 when she died on March 5, 2017 as a result of a motorcycle accident. She was a registered organ donor and she saved three lives through organ donation, restored the sight of two individuals through cornea donation and healed countless others through her gift of tissue donation.

One of the lives she saved was that of 38-year old Andrea Taylor, of Groveport, Ohio. Andrea received Lydia’s heart after many years of health struggles, strokes and not being able to care for her young son.

After Lydia’s tragic death, and Andrea’s miraculous transplant, Lydia’s mom, Kelly, reached out to the person who received her daughter’s heart. Donation is an anonymous process, and little did she know, she and her daughter had already met the heart recipient while Lydia was still alive.

The Backstory

In 2011 at a stranger’s garage sale, Kelly purchased a camper for her family. About a year later while Kelly and Lydia were eating at a local restaurant, a lady approached them. She said hello, introduced herself as Andrea and reminded Kelly she bought the camper from her parents. It was that chance encounter where Lydia and Andrea met briefly. The families wouldn’t know that six years later, their lives would forever be woven together.

The Gift

February 24, 2017 Lydia was involved in a motorcycle accident. For more than a week, doctors tried everything they could do to save her, but sadly, she was pronounced brain dead on March 5, 2017.

Just a few miles away, Andrea was at home, on the national transplant waiting list for a new heart.

Since Andrea and Lydia were from the same area in Central Ohio, Andrea heard through the grapevine about a local girl who had been involved in a motorcycle accident. Not knowing many details, Andrea prayed for the girl and her family.

On March 6, 2017, Andrea got the call she had desperately been waiting for – a heart was available. She didn’t have any details but posted a prayer request for the potential transplant on her Facebook page. Mutual friends wondered if Andrea may receive Lydia’s heart.

At 12:05 a.m. on March 7, 2017, Andrea’s new heart was beating strong inside her chest. Again, with no details about her donor, Andrea wrote a letter to the family expressing her immense gratitude.

Miles away, Kelly felt compelled to write a letter to Lydia’s heart recipient, whoever that person may be, to tell them about her precious daughter. All initial correspondence between donor families and recipients is handled by Lifeline of Ohio to protect the confidentiality of the gift.

On Easter 2017, just a few weeks later, both families received the letters they had unknowingly written to each other.

After a short time writing back and forth, both Andrea and Kelly expressed their desire to meet each other. On May 22, 2017, Kelly pulled up to Andrea’s parent’s house, immediately knowing she had been there before!

When the families greeted each other, they quickly realized they knew each other, and remembered Lydia and Andrea had been introduced to one another just a few years before at that chance encounter. No one could believe it - Kelly believes today Lydia outdid herself “choosing” Andrea as the recipient of her heart.

Now, Kelly takes Andrea to her transplant follow-up appointments at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, because she feels it is her way of still taking care of her daughter’s heart. Andrea has continued to do well post-transplant and because of Lydia’s gift, she is able to keep up with her young son.

Organ donors truly make second chances possible. What can you make possible? To register as an organ, eye and tissue donor, please visit www.lifelineofohio.org or visit your local Bureau of Motor Vehicles agency.