This past Valentine's Day, one mother got the chance of a lifetime. She heard her son's heartbeat for the first time in nearly two decades when she finally met the heart-transplant recipient whose life had been saved thanks to her son's organ donation. Saturday, which was also National Donor Day, marked an emotional and momentous occasion for the two women, who wept and embraced tightly upon seeing each other in Tampa International Airport.
Vicki Brannon's son, Matthew McIntyre, passed away on July 5, 1996 after being mortally wounded by a friend who had accidentally fired a handgun. The grieving mother made the decision to donate Matthew's organs, and the next day, the 14-year-old boy's heart went to Jennifer Lentini. The 13-year-old girl, who had suffered from heart disease and was hospitalized for months waiting for a transplant, was given a new lease on life thanks to Matthew's heart.
With her ear pressed against Jennifer's chest, listening to Matthew's heart beat in its new home this past Saturday, tears rolled down Vicki's cheeks as she said, "My Matthew is in there." Jennifer, who is now happy and healthy, called Matthew her "guardian angel" and gave Vicki a necklace with his initials and an angel inside a circle. Jennifer had arranged the tearful, joyous meeting after tracking down Matthew's family in order to finally say thank you.
"I'm overwhelmed, I'm happy—my son had a good, strong heart and it has kept her alive," Vicki told NY Daily News. "I feel like I gained a daughter."
Photos by Tim Boyles