Medical Breakthroughs: Heart transplant recipient thanks donor who was a 24-year-old father

Medical Breakthroughs

LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY)- February is the month of love and one man in Acadiana is thankful to be given the gift of a heart.

This comes as the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency, or LOPA, set a new record for organ donation in the state.

News 10 has this heartwarming story on the power of organ donation.

“I’ve always been an organ donor. Always. Never once did i think that I’d be the recipient,” said Eric Simmons.

Simmons always dreamed he would walk his daughter Hannah down the aisle.

That dream seemed far away, after he was not only diagnosed with amyloidosis – a incurable condition where abnormal proteins build up in tissues and organs, but also told he needed a new heart.

“They took us right away and identified what was wrong and told me that I’m going to need a heart, which is kind of hard to hear,” Simmons said. “Especially if you’re in good shape. I was strong but I just couldn’t breathe.”

ebruary 15, 2013, just one day after Valentine’s Day, Eric got his heart.

“We were so excited that he was getting this heart, but then we realized he may not come out of this,” Simmons’ daughter, Hannah Johnson, said. “We just cried in each other’s arms and kind of wondered did we say enough, did we tell him goodbye and all those things that we wanted to say because that might’ve been it.”

Eric survived and recovered well, his family even seeing his diseased heart that plagued him.
Eric eventually wrote to and met the family who’s loved one donated the heart.

The donor was a 24-year-old father.

“The little boy was 4. I had to kneel down so he could reach, but I remember he said he said mom that’s Daddy’s heart? I thought Daddy went to heaven. She said daddy got a new heart. it was remarkable.”

Eric still battles amyloidosis, getting chemo treatments once a month for the rest of his life.
he says – that’s a small price to pay for the life he now gets to live.

“Before the heart transplant I had no grandchildren. Now I have three. I got to walk my daughter down the aisle. You really can’t measure how important that is. nothing can replace that.”

LOPA set a new record for organ donations in 2019. In Louisiana, 233 organ donors gifted 754 organs to individuals waiting on their life-saving organ transplant.

Simmons said his donor donated five organs including his heart.

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