Very few people ever experience remaining a heartbeat away from a loved one they have lost to death, but Rachel Turner, a Wheelersburg resident, got that opportunity recently when she met the man who received the heart of the man she loved – George Blanton III who was killed six years ago in a motorcycle crash on May 29, 2011 on Washington Boulevard in West Portsmouth.
Turner and Lafe, her 9-year-old son by Blanton, met up with Danny Dunn of Wolf County, Kentucky, in Lexington.
“Her and their son wanted to feel his dad and her husband’s heart beating,” Dunn said. “My children were there too. We met at a restaurant and it was just a bonding experience. They have just become like a part of the family all of a sudden.”
It was quite an experience for Turner and her son.
“It was definitely emotional,” Turner said. “It was like a burden being lifted off of me, just being able to see someone else live and finally I just felt like there wasn’t a life lost, life came from it.”
Dunn’s wasn’t the only life saved by Blanton’s death.
“With George’s situation, they were actually able to take his heart and his kidney,” Turner said. “His heart went to this gentleman and one kidney another gentleman received and one kidney a lady received. So there has been three lives saved.”
Dunn did not have a heart attack at all. Approximately 11-12 years ago, Dunn suffered a virus, and it attacked his heart causing cardio-myopathy. He was given a pacemaker, and for about five years it sustained him, but it eventually failed. He was placed in a Jewish Hospital in Louisville where he was given an artificial heart. He had the artificial heart from November 2010 until June 2011.
“I was on the donor list and I was loafing at the local barbershop one afternoon and I got a call they had a heart donor,” Dunn said. “I loaded up and met my son and daughter in Lexington and got the heart that night. Ten days later, I was back home doing super good and honestly I haven’t had a sick day since then. It has just been the biggest miracle that I have had happen to me. I’ve had 30 biopsies and every one of them has been 100 percent positive.”
The two families have, as a result of the meeting, become like one family.
“They (Dunns) are very family oriented,” Turner said. “It was wonderful to see that his grandson has had more time with his grandpa and the kids have had more time with their father. It’s nice to see there is time thanks to somebody else’s unselfishness.”
Dunn said the plan is for the two families to keep in touch.
“I’ve got a grandson that’s the same age as her son and we’ve been talking through Facebook and we’ve got a lot of the same interests. Her family and my family, it’s uncanny the way things work out,” Dunn said. “Yeah, we’re going to remain close friends I believe. Her family members have reached out to my family and my family members have reached out to her family. It’s just a wonderful experience for us. I hope it is for them too.”
The entire scenario is about the heart.
“It’s bittersweet,” Turner said. “Especially when you are going through everything. It’s always hard to say goodbye to someone you love and care about, but to see something good come out of something bad, that’s the beautiful part about it.”
Both Turner and Dunn stressed the importance of being an organ donor.
“A lot of people are really not educated about organ donation,” Turner said. “A lot of people still have this pretence (preconceived notion) if I’m an organ donor, they’re going to let me die. I have told people going through this process, even being older, I still hear people my age and older, make comments about – they’re going to let you die – no they’re not.”
“I really want the story to promote organ donation,” Dunn said. “I have actually become an organ donor myself after thinking about it. It has been an eye-opener. I like being a spokesman to promote organ donation – it saved my life.”
The best way to become a donor is to register as a donor on your driver’s license or online on the Donate Life registry [www.registerme.org] . By registering, you ensure that your decision to donate can be honored in a timely manner when you die.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.
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