“She saved me:” Wisconsin father hears late daughter’s heartbeat in recipient’s body on Father’s Day
BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — It was a Father’s Day gift you cannot buy in a store or online — a touching gesture of compassion between strangers. A Wisconsin father lost his daughter less than a year ago. She was an organ donor, and on Father’s Day, he listened to the sound of her heartbeat inside the chest of the patient whose life she saved.
“It’s only 2,600 miles. One day at a time,” Bill Conner said.
Conner is biking across the country to cope with the sudden loss of his 20-year-old daughter Abigail Mae Conner, who died less than six months ago.
According to a GoFundMe.com account established by Bill Conner, on her winter break with her brother in Cancun, they both were found unconscious, face down in chest deep water in the resort’s pool. Unfortunately, Abigail didn’t make it, even after medical intervention.
“Beautiful girl. Fun. Funny,” Conner said.
Abbey Conner was in her junior year at UW-Whitewater.
Around the same time Conner was saying goodbye to his daughter, across the country, a young man learned he had just days to live.
“I couldn’t grasp it. I’m thinking, ‘no, I’m not really sick,'” Loumonth Jack Jr. said.
A seemingly vibrant and healthy Jack Jr. thought the tight sensation in his chest was just heartburn.
“The pain became unbearable, so they did an EKG and ‘bam,’ found out I was having a heart attack,” Jack Jr. said.
With treatment, doctors thought he was on the road to recovery.
“The doctors said that he would bounce back,” Alicia and Loumonth Jack Sr. said.
But then, the worst news came. His heart was failing — and fast.
“My doctors told me it was a viral infection that caused inflammation and damaged my heart,” Jack Jr. said.
That’s where the two stories collide. Conner’s daughter Abbey was an organ donor. She died on January 12th. Jack Jr. received her heart the next day.
“Seeing my daughter on life support, and then finding out that they were matches, that four of her organs were already matched up and ready to be harvested…made it a little bit easier that we were helping someone in need,” Conner said.
“She saved me and I can’t repay her. I wish I could, but I can’t. All I can do is send my love to her family,” Jack Jr. said.
At the end of his biking journey, Conner met the man his daughter saved, and heard her heartbeat on Father’s Day.
“She’s alive. Jack’s alive and she’s alive. It’s her heart,” Conner said.
Conner said not only was this journey about bonding with his daughter, it was to encourage every stranger he meets to become a registered organ donor.
“This isn’t about me. This is about Abbey and helping other people in need. It’s unfortunate she didn’t have a choice on how she was gonna leave this earth, but at the same time, just like Abbey — making an impact even though she left,” Conner said.