Friday, July 11, 2014

The day I met the boy who was given my son's heart: Mum's instinct helps her spot stranger who received life-saving organ

Freda Carter's son John, 33, died from a brain tumour in 2008
 His family agreed that John's heart, liver and kidneys would be donated
 They knew his heart had gone to a teenager named Scott, but no more
 Years later they attended a memorial service where Scott was speaking
 Mrs Carter, 66, says she instinctively knew Scott had John's heart
 Nurses arranged a meeting between the family and Scott Rutherford, now 20
 'It was some sort of miracle,' says Scott, who is now an aspiring actor

When John Carter died of a brain tumour, his parents found comfort in the knowledge his heart would save someone else’s life. 

But they had no idea whose ... until an amazing chance encounter five years later brought them together with the man rescued by the transplant. The 19-year-old stranger was giving a reading at a memorial service when John’s mother Freda broke down in tears and said: ‘This person’s got my son’s heart.’ 

It turned out her hunch was correct. And after the service Mrs Carter embraced the young man and put her hand on his chest to feel her son’s heartbeat once again. 

Yesterday, the 66-year-old told how she had always wanted to trace the person who had been given John’s heart but hospital rules forbade it. All they knew was that he was called Scott and had been 14 when the transplant took place. 

That was until last November when the couple, from Sunderland, attended the memorial service for organ donors. 

As Scott Rutherford gave the reading, Mrs Carter said she instinctively knew her son’s heart was beating inside him. 

‘I sat down and turned the page on the order of service and saw his name there and a strange feeling came over me,’ she said. 

‘I knew he was the recipient of John’s heart. It was irrational as Scott is a common name and he could have been anywhere in the country.

‘But I was completely hysterical. I couldn’t breathe and started making a massive scene. I think it must have been maternal instinct.’

She added: ‘I have always said since John passed away that my dying wish, the one thing I wanted to do in life, was to meet the boy who got his heart and to feel our John’s beat again. It was a complete miracle that he was standing in front of us.’

Nurses present at St George’s in Newcastle realised Mrs Carter was upset and brought her to the back of the church.

They sat and listened to Mr Rutherford speak of how his life was saved at 14 when he received a heart from a man named John.

Mrs Carter’s instinct was confirmed. She was so desperate to meet him that the nurses took the unusual decision to ask him after checking things over with the Freeman Hospital, where he had received his heart. 

Mrs Carter, a retired carer, said: ‘Scott came up to me and opened his arms and gave me a huge hug. 

‘He said he would be eternally grateful for what we have done for him. I asked him if I could feel John’s heart beat and he let me. It was all I wanted.’ 

Her husband, a 70-year-old retired engineer, added: ‘John lives on through him. He isn’t dead really.’ John, a spray painter, died in 2008 at the age of 33. 

His family decided to donate his organs so others could be saved. Mr Rutherford was just hours from death when he received the heart. The actor had been born with a rare disorder that affected his arteries. 

He said: ‘When I was growing up, I had barely any life. I was miserable and when my heart problems got worse I just wanted to die. 

‘I am unbelievably thankful to John and his family for everything that they have done for me. ‘The difference in my health is amazing.’ 

With the help of the new heart, Mr Rutherford was able to pursue his dream of studying performing arts and went on to graduate from Newcastle College
with a distinction. 

He described his chance meeting with the Carters as ‘some sort of miracle’. 

Lynn Holt, heart and lung transplant coordinator at the Freeman hospital, said: ‘I can think of only a few occasions when I was involved with the organ donor’s family meeting their recipient. It is an amazing result and I know that Scott was so happy that he got to meet the family. He was over the moon.’

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