Goddard heart transplant teen meets donor's mother, shares heartbeat

Published: Feb. 14, 2017 at 10:43 PM CST
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Two people - one heart. Eyewitness News first brought you the story of Josh Oakley about two years ago. He had a rare heart condition that nearly killed him, until he received a life-saving heart transplant at a Kansas City Hospital.

Now a healthy and active college kid, Josh had the chance to meet the mother of his heart donor.

They're an unlikely pair with a connection you can't see, but you can hear: a heartbeat.

Josh's heartbeat hasn't always sounded so strong. He nearly died two years ago from a rare heart condition. But a heart transplant saved his life. One year later, he met his donor's mother for the first time. It was a moment filled with so many emotions, both said they aren't sure how to describe it.

"Going into it, there's nothing I could say to this woman for her and her family giving me the chance to continue being here," Josh said.

Upon meeting, Maggie Redana, the donor's mother, embraced Josh and then laid her head on his chest. It was a sound Maggie had been waiting to hear since the day her son Ernesto died.

"That kind of connection, I don't know how," Maggie tried to explain. "I don't know if it was the heart, my heart, but it's something. My son had to go and God wanted to give life to him," she nodded toward Josh.

Maggie said she knew her son would want to donate his organs so that's what they did, giving life to Josh and forming an instant bond with someone they barely knew.

"Even before I got the transplant, we loved Maggie and her family. We didn't know it yet, we didn't know who it was, but we absolutely loved Maggie and her family before."

With just the beat of his new heart, Josh is reminded of their family's gift every day. So when he met with Maggie and her family met for the second time, he made sure Maggie knew her son's heart is never far away.

"We had this made for you," Josh said handing Maggie a stuffed teddy bear. "If you squeeze it, it's a recording of my heartbeat. So you can hear Ernesto whenever you want."

"Whenever I want," Maggie repeated. "That way I don't have to call you every time," she added laughing. "Thank you so much."

Maggie said she couldn't have picked a better person to have her son's heart, she said she and her family love Josh.

The two also stay in touch. They text almost every week, sometimes just to say good morning.