Baton Rouge, LA — It was a Father’s Day gift you can’t buy in a store – or online. A touching gesture of compassion between strangers.
The dad lost his daughter less than half a year ago. She was an organ donor.
On Sunday he listened to the sound of his little girl’s heart beating, inside the chest of the patient whose life she saved.
Bill Conner, donor dad: “It’s only 2,600 miles, one day at a time,” says organ donor dad, Bill Conner.
He’s biking across country, to cope with the sudden loss of his 20 year old daughter Abigail Mae who died less than six months ago. “Beautiful girl, fun, funny.”
Around the same time Conner was saying goodbye to his daughter, across the country a young man learned his life was numbered in days.
“I couldn’t grasp it. I’m thinking I’m not really sick,” recalls organ recipient, Loumonth Jack , Jr.
A seemingly vibrant and healthy Loumonth Jack, Jr. thought the tight sensation in his chest was just heartburn. “The pain became unbearable so they did an EKG and bam, found out I was having a heart attack.”
With treatment, doctors thought Loumonth was on the road to recovery.
“The doctors said that he would bounce back,” parents Alicia and Loumonth Jack, Sr recall. But then, the worst news came – his heart was failing, and fast.
“My doctor’s told me it was a viral infection that caused inflammation and damaged my heart.”
And that’s where these two stories collide. Conner’s daughter Abbey was an organ donor. She died January 12. Loumonth received her heart the next day.
“Seeing my daughter on life support then finding out that they were matches, that four of her organs were already matched up and ready to be harvested, made it a little bit easier that we were helping someone in need,” said Conner.
“She saved me and I can’t repair. I wish I could, but I can’t. All I can do is send my love to his family,” says Jack, Jr.
Now, at the end of his biking journey, Abbey’s father met the man his daughter saved. And heard her heartbeat on father’s day.
Conner, “She’s alive, Jack’s alive and she’s alive. It’s her heart.”
Conner says not only is this journey about bonding with his daughter, it’s to encourage every stranger he meets to become a registered donor.
“This isn’t about me. This is about abbey and helping other people in need. It’s unfortunate she didn’t have a choice on how she was gonna leave this earth but at the same time. Just like abbey, making an impact even though she left,” says Conner.