Woman hopes to meet recipient of son’s heart more than a year after his death

BRAMPTON, Ont. — A Brampton, Ont. woman is hoping to meet the recipient of her son’s heart as she seeks closure more than a year after he died of an accidental fentanyl overdose.

Sharon Vandrish said her 23-year-old son, Keerin John Reid, was taken off life support in September 2017 after he was declared brain dead.

She and her son’s father decided to donate four of their son’s organs, including his heart, through the Trillium Gift of Life Network, Ontario’s organ and tissue donation and transplantation service.

“I just knew that (Keerin) would have wanted something good to have come out of this tragedy,” said Vandrish.

Six months after the organs were donated, Vandrish wrote a letter to the heart recipient and the two have been corresponding ever since. She also wrote to the other three organ recipients, but they have not replied.

“It’s not like I’m trying to hold on to a piece of my son. I know he’s gone,” she said. “To me, this would just close a loop.”

Letters sent between donor and recipient families are reviewed by Trillium to ensure they abide by a series of guidelines, such as not including identifying information, according to agency’s website. However, approximate age and gender can be included. While the agency allows donor and recipient families to communicate anonymously, it does not connect them to meet in person.

Representatives from Trillium did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Vandrish said she was feeling sad on Christmas, because of the loss of her son and because she didn’t know the identity of the man who now has his heart. She then wrote a post on Reddit to see if she could make contact with the man.

“I was just frustrated at this process I guess,” said Vandrish. “I just wanted to reach out and see.”

But Vandrish said she hasn’t had any luck yet, and for now, she copes with her son’s death by going to a support group. She also has her son’s thumbprint on a bracelet charm, and she said she plans to get a tattoo to remember his “gift of life.” She said the heart recipient sent her an electrocardiogram of his heart about a week ago so she could get it tattooed along with her son’s heartbeat from when he was still alive.

“Those are just little things to keep him close and just keep those memories alive,” said Vandrish.

She said she also learned through corresponding with the heart recipient that he is a middle-aged father of two, whose brother died about seven years ago of a heart disease similar to the one the recipient was diagnosed with.

She said her son was an avid soccer player and gardener, who eventually took over her backyard to plant flowers, fruits and vegetables.

Vandrish said she received a letter from the recipient that said he had recently taken up gardening shortly after the heart transplant.

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