A father decided to bike 1,400 miles to hear his organ donor daughter’s heartbeat on Father’s Day. It had been five months since Bill Conner said goodbye to his 20-year-old daughter Abbey. Of course, he was still mourning the loss of his daughter. But I wanted to do something to honor his memory.
So, he decided to bike 2,600 miles from his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She would visit Broward Health Medical Center, the hospital that recovered Abbey’s organs for donation in January.
On May 22, 2017, the day after her son Austin graduated from college. Conner set out on his journey. He said CBS News that Abbey would have wanted him to do this. And he wanted to do it too to commemorate his short life.
A tragedy for the Conner family
Apparently they decided to have a few drinks at the pool bar, but began to feel bad shortly after. There were no lifeguards present. A guest saw the brother and sister face down and unconscious in the pool and rushed to alert the hotel staff. Unfortunately, when someone noticed them and pulled them out of the water, Abbey had suffered irreversible brain injuries.
They flew her to the Fort Lauderdale hospital, where doctors desperately tried to save her life. However, too much damage had been done. They kept her on life support until they could remove her organs for transplantation.
Abbey had decided to become an organ donor when did you get your license at 16. She and her family had discussed it before. Abbey was a very generous and caring person, so her family was not surprised by her decision. Little did Abbey know at the time that registering as an organ donor would save the lives of four men.
Bill wanted to meet Abbey’s heart transplant recipient
Bill said his daughter always took care of her friends and loved helping people in need. So becoming an organ donor was simply in accordance with his values and compassionate nature. The untimely death of her daughter devastated her family. However, knowing that he was still helping people even after his passing took away some of the pain.
When the family last said goodbye to Abbey, a 21-year-old from Lafayette, Louisiana, was on the brink of death. There, doctors told Loumonth Jack, Jr. that he had 10 days to live after suffering a heart attack. Faced with imminent heart failure, the young man knew that only a miracle would keep him alive.
It was then that the doctors informed him that he need a heart transplant. By a stroke of luck, there was no waiting list at the time. It so happened that Abbey’s heart would end up saving her life.
Today he is alive thanks to Abbey’s decision to become an organ donor. Three other men, between the ages of 20 and 60, are also living thanks to her. In addition to her organs, Abbey donated her eyes and other tissues.
How Bill connected with the young man
Conner contacted him donation center who handled Abbey’s organs on her bike ride to honor her. He wanted to meet all the organ recipients, so the center sent letters to all four. However, the only one who responded was Jack Jr., the recipient of the heart.
The donation center gave Jack’s phone number to Conner, who spoke to him several times. They had plans to meet in Baton Rouge, 1,400 miles from their hometown, on Father’s Day.
Conner said Loumonth seemed very humble, courteous and respectful. As a father, Conner realized that the young man had grown up well.
When Conner finally met Jack that Father’s Day in 2017, he already felt familiar to him. They both walked towards each other with open arms, sharing a minute-long hug. Jack’s friends and family were also there to witness the special moment.
Then Jack pulled out a stethoscope so Conner could hear his organ donor daughter’s heartbeat once more. Conner listened carefully and heard his daughter’s heart beating inside Jack’s chest. It was an emotional moment and both men began to cry.
It meant everything to Conner to hear his daughter’s heartbeat again. This moment reminded him that Abbey lived in Jack and the other three transplant recipients. Knowing that they are still here thanks to Abbey, and it’s her heart beating inside Jack, she kept her connection to her alive.
The meeting allowed Conner to see firsthand how Abbey’s life benefited others. Without her, Jack wouldn’t be standing today. He was incredibly grateful for the second chance he had given him. I wanted to pay him in some way, but I knew I couldn’t. However, meeting Conner gave her the opportunity to express her love and gratitude.
Jack’s family also recorded his heartbeat so Conner could hear it during his bike ride. It was a long journey, but it was worth meeting his daughter again.
Meeting with Jack gave Conner one last chance to hear his daughter’s heartbeat. They had separated her from her family too soon, but her legacy will endure. At just 16 years old, he had made the decision to become an organ donor. This selfless decision would end up saving the lives of four people, making Abbey a hero even after death.
After Jack and Conner spent a little more time together, Conner continued on his way. He wanted to raise awareness of all the beautiful reasons to become an organ donor throughout his journey. She also shared her daughter’s story, hoping to inspire others.
For him, being an organ donor means overcoming selfishness and giving others another chance at life. This puts things in perspective, as many people wait months or even years for a transplant. Your heart, lungs, or other vital organs could help save someone’s life. For more information on becoming a donor, visit The National Registry of Life Donations.