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Mom listens to her late son's heartbeat through his organ donor recipient

The heartwarming moment mother Maria Clark got to listen to her son's heart two years after a fatal car crash was captured on video by the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency.

Mom listens to her late son's heartbeat through his organ donor recipient
Image Source: Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency

Maria Clark lost her son, Nicholas Peters, in a fatal car accident nearly two years ago. He was 25. At the time, Clark knew immediately that she wanted to donate his organs. The Madisonville, Louisiana, resident said she also knew her son would have wanted the same. Unbeknown to her, the grateful donee who received her son's heart lived less than three hours away from her. Jean Paul Marceaux, aged 14, received her son's heart after spending a whole summer in the hospital fighting for his life. For the first time since the transplant took place, Clark had the opportunity to meet the young boy and listen to her son's heart, Good Morning America reports.


Marceaux was only two years old when he contracted a virus and developed cardiomyopathy, a condition in which "the heart muscle’s ability to pump blood is reduced," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). He was on life support for six months until he underwent his first heart transplant at age 2. Unfortunately, his heart began to fail just over a year later. His mother, Candace Armstrong, shared in an interview with Good Morning America, "When he got the first transplant, we knew the probability of him having to get a second one was highly likely. He ended up in the hospital in June 2020."


The teenager spent that summer in the hospital, fighting for his life. In September of that year, he finally received the news that a heart was available. Armstrong described the news as a "flood of emotions." "It's such a dichotomy because you are hoping for it because it’s going to sustain your son’s life, but you know what this is attached to," she said. "I know another mother is having what I have been praying to not happen. It’s a very unusual circumstance to be in." When her son received his second transplant, she did not know who the donor was. Donors or families of donors are told to wait for at least one year until they contact their donees. 


Although Marceaux was never contacted by his first donor, his family received a letter from Clark less than a year after the second transplant. "I wrote right away," Clark said, explaining that she could not wait a year. "I wanted to know where his organs are. I want to know that they're okay, that they're doing fine and moving on with their lives and their health." This helped Marceaux's family put a name and face to the donor. Armstrong shared, "The whole 10 years that we never had a response from our first hero’s family, we still honor this family and this hero, but it’s just not tangible. We never had a face. We didn’t know who it was. For Jean Paul to actually know a person and to connect with him and the family, it was the first time it had ever happened for us."


The two moms connected immediately after the letter. They stayed in touch via telephone, text and Facebook. Although they had initially planned to meet, the pandemic made an in-person meeting near impossible. However, once Marceaux recovered following the transplant, even returning to school, the two families met for the first time in person on May 14 in New Orleans. During this meeting, Clark had the opportunity to listen to her son's heartbeat for the first time since his passing. "He came in and he just hugged me. He had a strong hug, just like Nick did," Clark said of Marceaux. "And then to hear the heartbeat, it was so strong and so full of life. It came through the stethoscope so strong, just beating like a drum. I was so connected to him because he was so much like Nick."


In the same manner, Armstrong feels connected to Clark's son. She stated, "We feel like we know him. We talk about him, Nick, like he’s part of his family, and he is. It’s not donor anymore, it’s Nick." Indeed, the family is incredibly grateful to the donor. "Nobody wants to talk about what happens when somebody passes away. It’s an uncomfortable situation," Armstrong noted. "But it’s very important because someone like Jean Paul, he wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for organ donation." In the United States, more than 100,000 adults and children are currently on the national transplant waiting list. If you have not registered as an organ donor yet, you can do so in the National Donate Life Registry at Any adult aged 18 or older can register to be an organ, eye and tissue donor regardless of age or medical history.


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