Earlier this year one of B.C.’s first ever face-to-face meetings between a heart transplant recipient and the family of their organ donor took place.
Vancouver’s Carrie Jung met Marie and Daryl Doherty at Marie’s home in Pitt Meadows on Feb. 20. The pair are the mother and brother of Darcy Doherty, who donated his heart when he died at the age of 37.
Jung and the Doherty’s had been in touch with each other since Darcy’s heart allowed Carrie to continue living after a heart failure saw her sit on the transplant list for seven years.
“BC transplant has always encouraged recipients to write a letter after the transplant to express their gratitude,” Jung said. “So 18 years ago, after my heart transplant, I wanted to write a letter to my donor family, and I had hoped that they would respond and they did.
“As a result, for the past 17-and-a-half years, we continued to correspond anonymously through BC Transplant.”
In the meantime, it had been very important to Carrie to maintain contact.
“Not only was it important because of the gratitude that I felt; it was also because I felt a sense of responsibility,” Carrie said.
“I knew that I had received someone’s heart, and I had vowed to myself that I would take care of it to the best of my ability.
“I thought I owed it to the donor family to let them know how well I’ve been doing with this new heart, and to let them know all the activities that I’ve been able to do – the way that I live my life, the way that I’ve been able to continue to work, and continue to travel – all of the things that I would not have been able to do had it not been for his heart.”
Carrie said she had never tried to find out who the Doherty’s were, as she thought it would never be possible. It was only recently that she found out Marie had been fighting for 17 years for the chance to meet her face-to-face.
In December, Carrie said she received a phone call from a BC Transplant social worker offering her the opportunity to meet her donor’s family.
Due to a recently updated recipient – donor family contact policy, transplant recipients are now able to communicate directly withe the family of their organ donors.
She jumped at the chance to meet the Doherty’s, but trepidation set in as the meet-up date approached.
“The social worker came to pick me up to see Marie and Daryl, and when I got into his car, the first thing I said to him was, ‘I feel nervous,’ so that was when it really hit me.”
As soon as she came saw the Doherty’s however, the nerves disappeared.
“It felt like meeting people that I’d known for a very long time, but had not seen for a very long time,” she said. “It felt like a reunion, that we were finally able to be together again.”
Marie Doherty was equally ecstatic to meet Carrie.
“We had waited so long to finally meet her, and she’s such a lovely person,” she said.
“We were so happy, and she’s happy-go-lucky like my son was.”
Despite being in touch anonymously for so long, Marie always held out hope she would eventually meet her son’s donor recipient in person.
“Though we lost Darcy, we were happy that at least he gets to live on in her.”