Emotional reunion: Heart transplant recipient meets teen organ donor’s family for first time

Emotional reunion: Heart transplant recipient meets teen organ donor’s family for first time
The family of an 18-year-old organ donor from Kentucky traveled to Jacksonville, Florida, this weekend to meet a St. Augustine father who received their daughter’s heart. (ActionNewsJax.com)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The family of an 18-year-old organ donor from Kentucky traveled to Jacksonville, Florida, this weekend to meet a St. Augustine father who received their daughter’s heart.

Jill Hurst died after a car crash in September of last year.

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It was an emotional reunion at Mayo Clinic when John Sugrim, 48, of St. Augustine, met his heart donor’s mother.

Tears flowed down Christy Hurst’s face as she heard her daughter’s recorded heartbeat from inside a teddy bear given to her family.

“She ... just her whole life, she gave to people,” said Hurst.

Jill Hurst’s life was cut short in September of last year when police were chasing a man who crashed into her car after she left a high school football game.

Days after Hurst died, Sugrim got the call he had been waiting on for over six years.

“At 42, I had a heart failure, so I had a pacemaker, ICD (implantable cardioverter defibrillator) and medication to keep me going,” Sugrim explained.

Sugrim’s wife and children started counting the days that he had left.

“It was a very trying time because there was so much he couldn’t do,” said Alyssa Sugrim.

But with Hurst’s heart beating inside his chest, he feels much better.

“My heart is doing so well, it is performing better than most athletes,” said John Sugrim.

Along with her heart, Hurst donated several other organs, including her liver, lungs and kidneys, for transplant. Her mother says doctors kept her alive long enough to help save five lives.

The group hugged and cried, and one by one, family members listened to Hurst’s heartbeat. Sugrim says the teddy bear was a gift so the family can hear a part of Hurst again.

Hurst’s father says he struggled with losing his daughter but today, his hope was renewed.

“I’m happy that she got to give the life to somebody who gets to be with their family. On the flip side, I’m sad because I lost my daughter. She had a beautiful soul,” said Jerry Hurst.

But listening to their daughter’s heartbeat gave them peace and a bond that is indescribable.

If you’re curious about becoming an organ donor or have questions about organ donation, check out the Mayo Clinic’s page that busts myths and misinformation about organ donation.