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When Mayo Clinic heart transplant patient Alyssa Sandeen met her donor’s mother for the first time, she brought the perfect gift: a teddy bear with a recording of her donor’s heartbeat.
Alyssa Sandeen and Jennifer Leekley had never met face-to-face. But they knew each other's stories well, and had been working toward this moment for a while. After months of planning, the two women met up late last month at a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) event in Illinois. And to say it was emotional would be like saying the sky is blue, or water is wet, or … well, you get the point. Fortunately, Alyssa brought the perfect ice-breaker: a recording with the sound of Jennifer's daughter Katlyn's heart, which now beats inside Alyssa's chest.
As the Chicago Tribune, CBS Chicago, the Mankato Free Press, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and the San Francisco Chroniclereport, Katlyn, or Kate as her family called her, was killed by a drunk driver in 2013. She was just 20 years old. Because Katlyn was a registered organ donor, her organs helped save the lives of four other people. Including Alyssa, who received Katlyn's heart during a transplant procedure at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus in June 2013.
Alyssa, as we previously reported, has faced a laundry list of medical issues that began when she was just 8 years old. That list includes a kidney transplant (with her mom as her donor), skin cancer, a heart attack, and, miraculously enough, two previous heart transplants. Read the rest of Alyssa's story.
This story originally appeared on the In the Loop blog.