Imagine your wedding day, with family all around you. For brides getting married for the second time, this will probably include any children you have, and they, of course, would play a significant role in the ceremony. For one bride in Alaska, the heartbreaking death of her son as a teenager meant she was not able to include all of her children in the ceremony. Her son had died years before she ever expected he would. Most parents would agree this is the worst case scenario, hard for most to recover from.
Becky Turney made a choice to donate her son Triston Green’s organs when he died two years before her wedding day. One of his organs, his heart, was to play a significant role in the big day for Turney two years later. Through the gift of organ donation, the traumatic death of Green turned into a lifesaving heart transplant for 20-year old Jacob Kilby.
Green had decided at the young age of 14 that he wanted to become an organ donor. He made sure to include this designation of his first driver’s permit. Turney explains the choice to donate Green’s heart:
“When we got the news that he wasn’t going to make it, right away I requested to speak to a doctor about organ donation. It was not until we met with the donation team that they came in with a copy of his donor paperwork and they said he had already signed. We honored that decision. It comforts you to know that your child can save lives through death. It’s something that you’re just proud. My child just became five other people’s hero.”
At the time that Kilby received the heart, he had already waited on the transplant list for a year and a half. He had also been in the hospital for 45 days after his first transplanted heart stopped working fully. After receiving the transplanted heart, Kilby recovered enough to live a normal life.
While many organ donor families do not get to meet the people that receive organs because of medical confidentiality, the recipients are sometimes given the option of contacting the parents if both parties agree. In Kilby’s case, his aunt was the one who made the first contact on Facebook. She was excited to share his life with the family who lost so much for Kilby to have a new heart.
It was through this Facebook contact that Kilby’s aunt met Turney’s fiancé. This contact put a plan into effect that reunited Turney with her son’s heart just in time for the wedding.
Kilby was flown all the way to Alaska to surprise the bride at the wedding. He was able to take a few quiet moments with the bride’s sister to talk about his plans and to share how much of an impact the donated heart had made for him. According to a wedding guest:
“Everyone was so moved by this and I had to share this amazing story. I had the pleasure of hearing Jacob share his gratitude and plans for a heart healthy life to Triston’s sister before the ceremony. I am so blown away by his story and his amazing outlook on life. You couldn’t ask for a better recipient to receive such a gift.”
While much of the family got to see Kilby before the wedding, the big reveal occurred as he was introduced at the start of the ceremony. Kilby served as a groomsman after a tearful exchange of hugs with the bride. The pictures of the moments after Turney and Kilby met went viral.
A quick thinking member of the bridal party even thought to bring a stethoscope with them so the bride could hear Green’s heart as it beat for Kilby. After some careful planning, a bit of sneaking around and even some creative diversions, the plan to get Green’s heart to his mom’s wedding worked out magically.
What was even more touching was the fact that Turney had set aside a particular empty seat on the bride’s side to honor her late son. She had no way of knowing that he would make and appearance in another way as she listened to his heartbeat and shared hugs with the young man carrying his heart.