• Transplant

    A Valentine’s Day story of love, legacy and the gift of life

Harley and Justine Duffer with their newest family member, Peyton

The Duffer family’s home is filled with lots of love this Valentine’s Day.

They have a new baby girl, and dad got the lifesaving heart transplant he needed.

Take a look at the special way the Duffer family is now recognizing love, legacy and the gift of life.

Watch: A Valentine’s Day story about love, legacy and the gift of life

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video pkg (1:50) is in the downloads at the end of this post. Please courtesy: “Mayo Clinic News Network”. Read the script.

Harley’s fight to survive

Being together as a family has a deeper meaning for the Duffer family this Valentine’s day. In 2021, Harley suffered heart failure stemming from a rare genetic condition. He says doctors told him his only chance for survival was to get a heart transplant.

“I was basically on my deathbed,” says Harley. “They told me I had six months to live.” Doctors also told Harley the transplant would be the hardest thing he’s ever done in his whole life.

Harley says he had to fight to survive for his family.

Harley was placed in a medically induced coma while on the heart transplant waiting list
(photo courtesy: Duffer Family)

The wait for a heart donor

Harley was placed in a medically induced coma at Mayo Clinic to minimize damage to his heart while waiting for a donor organ to become available. Each passing day took its toll on the family.

"There were several instances where the fear of him not making it through set in very heavy. And then you have a daughter at home saying ‘Where’s daddy? Where’s daddy?’ It was a lot to go through,” remembers Justine.

The Duffers got the call they were hoping for - a donor heart was available. Harley underwent a successful transplant and began his long road to recovery.

Harley Duffer leaving Mayo Clinic after his successful heart transplant
(photo courtesy: Duffer Family)

Heartfelt gratitude

After regaining his health, Harley got the chance to do something he never expected. He was given the opportunity to meet the family of his organ donor, Peyton Nurse.

Both families got together and listened to Peyton’s heart beating healthy and strong in Harley’s chest.

“I could not have asked for a better donor family. They are so caring and welcoming,” says Harley. “I understand they are going through a loss, but I want to be here for them. They are just the best kinds of people.”

Lesley Nurse listens to the heartbeat of her son Peyton’s donated heart

Remembering the life and legacy of Peyton Nurse

Peyton is remembered as a loving son, a brother, a friend to all, and a star student who always sought to help others in his community. He tragically lost his life in a car accident. His last wish was to be an organ donor. Peyton’s heart became the gift of life for Harley.

“We went to see Peyton’s resting place,” says Harley. “Such bravery and selflessness from a young man. I just want to say thank you to Peyton’s family, for your son’s bravery and the sacrifices he’s made.”

Peyton Nurse lost his life at the age of 21. His last wish was to be an organ donor
(photo courtesy: Lesley Nurse)
Harley Duffer visiting the gravesite of his heart donor, Peyton Nurse
(photo courtesy: Duffer Family)

Harley and Justine are now back at home with their daughter, Libi, and their newborn baby girl. With their hearts full of love and gratitude, and the hope to carry on the legacy of their heart donor, they named their new baby girl, Peyton.

“We want her to know the importance of organ donation, and that’s why her daddy is still here, to raise his girls, and be here with us all together,” says Justine.

Peyton Duffer at four weeks old

Carrying on the legacy of her son’s name means the world to his mom Lesley. “I can’t wait to hold baby Peyton in person and hold her in my arms,” shares Lesley. The name “Peyton” holds a special place in her heart because not only was it her son’s name, but a name that was handed down for several generations in her family.

Lesley shared these two pictures as a Valentine’s Day message to serve as a reminder of the power of love, legacy and the gift of life.

Peyton Nurse
Peyton Duffer

“Naming their baby after my son Peyton is the highest honor and symbol of gratitude, magnitude, and love. Thus he, through his gift of organ donation and now his name, is part of their family forever. Names create legacies. We will always be connected in so many ways.
We are forever grateful.

Lesley Nurse, Heart donor’s mom

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