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Mom Hears Daughter’s Heart Beating Inside Transplant Recipient

In case you missed it recently on the Today Show, make sure you have some tissues handy before watching this story about two moms, strangers until recently, who are now connected through the gift of a heart.

On her family’s final run on the last day of their Colorado ski vacation, 13-year-old Taylor Storch, who was wearing a helmet, tumbled backward and hit a tree. She was declared brain-dead the next day, and Taylor’s parents, Tara and Todd Storch of Coppell, Texas, decided to donate her organs. Taylor’s pancreas, kidneys, eyes, and liver were all donated, as well as her heart, which was the hardest for her mom to let go of, she said. In all, five strangers are alive through Taylor’s donations.

Taylor’s heart traveled from Colorado to Arizona, ultimately transplanted into the body of Patricia Winters, a 39-year-old mom of two young boys, who had battled cardiomyopathy for nearly five years, and who, as a result of her condition, was sleeping 18 hours a day and was virtually unable to care for her children. She had been a candidate for a heart transplant twice before, but both times the donation had fallen through.

Although organ donation is confidential, Winters’ husband searched online and found the likeliest source of his wife’s heart within a day of her surgery, after reading reports of the teen’s tragic death in Colorado. And back in Texas, Taylor’s mom was determined to reconnect with her daughter’s heart. A neighbor helped her track down Winters through online news reports of an Arizonan heart recipient.

Six months after Taylor’s death, the Storch and Winters families met in person, and through a stethoscope, Tara Storch was finally able to listen to the beating of her daughter’s heart once again. Later during the visit, while their husbands were out of the room, Storch asked if she could lay her head on Winters’ chest and listen, as she had done when her daughter was alive. When she did, she heard the heart give two big “kicks”; the women believe it was a sign from Taylor that she was there with them.

The Storches haven’t stopped saving lives; following the donation of Taylor’s organs, the family started the website to help other Americans become organ donors. The site lists organ donor information by state, and is a great starting place for learning more about organ donation.