Heart recipient helps donor’s daughter

OREM, Utah — Everyone has the choice to be an organ donor or not.

For people who do choose to donate their organs, it can have a life-altering impact on the person who receives the organ and the people around them.

Amanda Gabaldon never imagined that she would need an organ transplant.

“I was 28 years old, I was super healthy, I had never done anything to develop heart failure,” said Gabaldon.

She was pregnant with her first child when she was diagnosed with Peripartum Cardiomyopathy, which is a weakness of the heart muscle that can begin during pregnancy.

Her heart donation came after her daughter was born and it came from a woman named Terri Lusk.

“My mom was running, and she got hit by a car and it hit her head, so she had a traumatic brain injury and so that’s how I lost my mom,” said Amanda Harward, Terri’s daughter.

That day forever changed the lives of both Amanda’s.

While Terri lost her life, she was able to give life to Amanda Gabaldon.

“About a month after my surgery I really had all these cravings for Diet Cokes and I didn’t understand why at the time, and I drank so many of them,” Gabaldon said.

“Yeah so Diet Coke, my mom loved Diet Coke,” Harward said.

Harward said her mom always had a Diet Coke and would drink it constantly.

Gabaldon says she used to hate the drink but now craves it on holidays.

Both Amanda’s think it’s part of Terri that still shines through Gabaldon.

“It’s important to me to keep her alive,” Gabaldon said.

The two women have now become good friends, Gabaldon wrote a letter after her surgery thanking the Lusk family for Terri’s heart.

“To see that my mom has actually helped people, you hear it, but you get to see her and her family, and we met her husband and her daughter,” said Harward.

“We send updates, I text them, we call, we email,” Gabaldon said.

Harward is now a science teacher at Orem High School and recently she taught her students about organ donation, asking Gabaldon to help her.

“It’s such a personal connection to these kids that are in Amanda’s class they know her as just Mrs. Harward, they don’t know her as all these other personal life experiences,” said Gabaldon.

The students asked Gabaldon many questions about her heart transplant.

“The questions go from everything like, what do you eat now, or can you feel things your owner once felt,” said Gabaldon.

Gabaldon was never a teacher before her transplant, now she goes around and teaches people about organ donation.

Terri was also a teacher.

Harward says she hopes she and Gabaldon can teach her students the importance of organ donation and how it can truly change lives in more ways than one.

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