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May 17 2021 12:00 am

Man gets heart transplant, creates build-a-bear with heartbeat inside for donor’s family

US & World

SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. (WWLP) – A South Hadley, Massachusetts, man’s life was saved by a heart transplant and now he is giving back to his donor’s family. 

For 10 years, Robert O’Connor’s heart condition, Cardiomyopathy, was controlled by medication. Then one day, he found himself being flown from Baystate Medical Center to Tufts Medical Center in Boston fighting for his life.  

It was then that Robert was placed on a special kind of life support to keep his heart pumping, but no one was sure how long it could keep him alive. 

“It was basically, when I get a heart… if I get a heart,” O’Connor said. 

After being bedridden for 10 weeks, Robert’s life was changed again, this time for the better. He was told he was getting a heart. 

“I got the heart, I got my life back,” O’Connor said. 

O’Connor’s new heart came from Dakota Reid, a 16-year-old from Virginia who died tragically in an accident. After O’Connor and the Reids connected, he had an idea. He wanted the Reids to still be able to feel Dakota’s presence. 

So, he made a build a bear they could keep forever with his new heartbeat in it, Dakota’s heartbeat. 

“We talked about meeting,” said O’Connor. “Someday in the future, we will meet so they could hear their heart and I said hopefully this will help until we meet.” 

Robert said he is forever grateful for the gift of life he received and keeps Dakota in his thoughts. He is now looking forward to having his life back. 

“Just being able to get outside walk do anything,” said O’Connor. “Go swimming with my granddaughter in my pool. Just getting back to life.” 

Click here to find out how you can help someone in need of a transplant

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