Heart transplant recipient meets family of donor

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Two families are now connected by one beating heart.

Jesse and Susie Rejko and Kathy Weidner would likely have never became friends, but organ donation brought them together.

Kathy is alive because the Rejkos daughter, Kristen, donated her heart to her in a lifesaving operation nearly seven years ago.

“I can’t thank the family enough,” said Kathy. “For everything that they’ve done and I think with Kristen, it’s the idea that she unselfishly made that decision herself. That’s what she wanted way back when.”

In Dec. 2010, 37-year-old Kristen Turner, who lived in Monroe County, suffered a fatal epileptic seizure. That same month, Kathy Weidner was near death. She had been on the wait list for a heart transplant for four months. On Dec. 17, she was the recipient of Kristen’s heart.

“It’s a bittersweet ending,” said Jesse. “But it’s a purposeful ending and it put Krissy’s faith to reality. It was worth it from that standpoint.”

Susie is a registered nurse and has worked with transplant patients. She feels it might have been her experience that rubbed off on her daughter’s desire to be a donor.

“This is the one gift that you can give, you give life. For Kathy, it was saving her life. For the other lady that got her kidney and liver, it was saving her life as well,” said Susie.

St. Vincent Hospital is celebrating 30 years as a transplant hospital. Dr. Mary Walsh, a cardiologist, hopes more people will agree to be a donor.

“Because at a time of great tragedy can come real joy for a family that’s suffering a lot of grief,” said Dr. Walsh.

You can become a donor by simply making sure your driver’s license states your wishes. For more on becoming a donor click here.

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