A life-saving surgery leads to a lifelong friendship—a New Mexico woman is helping honor her heart donor’s legacy by teaming up with her daughter.
“I was very near the end when I did finally receive my donor heart,” said Amanda Gabaldon of Albuquerque.
In 2013, Gabaldon gave birth to her first daughter. In the following months, she realized something was not right, and her life changed forever.
“I was come to find out, after being diagnosed with ammonia and bronchitis, in full stage heart failure,” said Gabaldon.
Around that same time, a state away in Utah, Amanda Harward unexpectedly lost her mom.
“My mom was running and she got hit by a car and it hit her head. She ended up having a traumatic brain injury,” said Harward.
While Harward’s mom, Terri Lusk, lost her life, she was able to give her heart to Gabaldon.
“I just hoped this was going to be my new lease on life,” said Gabaldon.
But from then on, it wasn’t just her life. Gabaldon considered it her and her donor’s life.
“When I found out that Terri was also a teacher before she passed, it was one of my goals to live on for her and to teach,” said Gabaldon.
On a recent trip to Salt Lake City, Gabaldon and Harward teamed up to teach Harward’s high school students about the importance of organ donations.
“The questions go from everything like, what do you eat now? Or, can you feel things your owner once felt?” said Gabaldon.
Now, good friends, Harward feels like she still has a piece of her mom.
“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.
It’s a family neither woman expected to have.
“It’s very uncommon for a recipient and a donor family to have such a bond like we do,” said Gabaldon.
However, it’s one they both think will make a difference.
“It’s a really overwhelming but beautiful feeling,” said Gabaldon.
In all, Lusk saved nine lives by donating her organs.
Gabaldon plans to keep sharing her story and teaching people about the importance of being a donor.