My name is Kerri and you have my brother’s heart. That is how an email I received from Kerri on Friday November 1st. I was absolutely floored and had to sit down and catch my breath. I had followed all the UCSF and the Donor Networks’ protocols by waiting a full year post transplant to write a letter to the donor family. I never heard back from the family so I assumed they did not want to make contact for whatever reason. I had given up hope ever knowing about my heart donor and the family of the donor.
Kerri is the older sister of her brother Mark. I am not using last names or what part of the Country they live in to protect the privacy of the family. In fact she made it clear that it was her decision to follow-up on my letter not her mother’s who has not wanted to contact me. We also make the assumption that her mother has never heard of Face Book or my blog. Kerri said that she will tell her other family members she has made contact with me but not her mother. Not just yet. I hope to meet Kerri and her finance Jeff sometime this year. I may be able to meet the other members of the family as well at that time but only time will tell.
Last night, just as I was working on the final draft of this blog post, I received an email from Kerri’s younger sister Sheri. Sheri is a graduate student at a college in the bay area and is married. She still keeps a home in the same general area of California as their mother does.
Sheri’s’ email started in a similar way as Kerri’s did. She started by saying
"Hi Bob Reid,
Almost four years ago you received my brother’s heart. Two years ago I tried to find you, and even wrote handwritten rough drafts of what I would say in my letter to you, but was unable to get permission to contact you. You have recently been in contact with my sister, Kerri, after she found your online blog. The news that I would finally be able to contact you has been so overwhelming that I have needed time to process the information, as two years ago I had to grieve the fact that I might never be able to contact you. It is amazing to think that each year at the same time I am grieving my brother, someone else is celebrating their life. It is such an overwhelming connection. I would love to hear how you are doing and answer any questions you might have for me.”
I included her entire email because it was so moving for me to read. Kerri tells me that her sister Sheri is not ready for a phone conversation let alone a personal visit. Sheri needs time to digest all this information.
Their Brother Mark’s death was a tragic one. He was just 21 years old when he passed. He celebrated his birthday on May 18th 2009. He would have been 25 years of age when I celebrate my 4th year anniversary of my heart transplant this December 18th. He died on the 13th of December 2009 and I received his heart on December 18th at approximately 3:00am in the morning. I went into surgery at about 1:00am and woke up at about 9:00am with Mark’s gift of new life.
Kerri and I talked a long length after I received her email. There was so much to talk about. Her memory of the on again off again sequence of events before Transplant was exactly as I recall it. I have many more questions to ask her and my team at UCSF now that the vail of confidentiality has been lifted. This is unusual for two members of the donor family to make contact without the rest of the family. Time will determine if her Mother will ever want to talk. There has been much pain and suffering for the family and she may never want to meet me or talk with me. I respect their wishes. Kerri will be the bridge between me and the rest of her family.
As Kerri told me all about Mark and sent me some photos of him and her family I felt a sense of completion and also deep love and affection for all of them especially Mark. Few people ever get to know the person who gave his life to save your life. Mark was a young man who suffered with a terrible mental illness, Schizophrenia.
There will be much more to share in my next posts especially now that both sisters’ have made contact. I just wanted to share my deep appreciation to Kerri and Jeff and Kerri’s sister Sheri for contacting me .I have a sense of Joy at this news and pray for all the members of this family especially Mark who I believe is in a better place now.
I will dedicate my 4th anniversary celebration on December 18th and every year thereafter to Mark whose life and heart saved my life.
Life is good!