It's been said that the sound of a heartbeat is the first thing that connects mother and child and when that child dies suddenly, most mothers as well as fathers would give anything to hear it again. One Lafayette family had the chance of a lifetime Friday afternoon.
Lafayette radio personalities, Jenn and Hans Nelson, best known as Fast Eddie and Jen from Big 102.1, lost their son Christian on May 30th of 2013. While coping with the sudden loss, they made a decision to keep alive Christian's wish and legacy. As a registered organ donor, Christian's organs and tissue would go on to save several lives.
Kaylon Marshall, suffered from a dilated cardiomyopathy which caused him to miss his high school graduation and quit his beloved sport of football. He lay dying in a hospital bed at Oschner's days before his 18th birthday. The Shreveport native and for Calvary Baptist Academy all-star waited a year and a half for a heart transplant. Mother Pamela Marshall said, “That's a long time to wait for something while you watch your child diminish.”
One day after Christian's death, he received a second chance at life.
Four months after a successful heart transplant, the Nelson family met Kaylon and his family in a small meeting room at Oschner's thanks to the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency (LOPA). Tears, hugs and laughs were exchanged between the nervous families who now shared one heart.
“It's very tragic for us,” said Hans. “However, through these circumstances came something wonderful.”
Kaylon said, ” I feel like I can do anything now and this feels like a family reunion to me.”
The topic of organ donation was on everyone's mind. Kaylon's mother admitted to never giving second thought to the topic.
“It wasn't until it hit home, that I went out the next day and signed up,” she said.
Anthony Bowman, Kaylon's father, said, ” I always was an organ donor but I didn't think anything of it. However, when it hit here I understood. That's got to be the greatest love of all because you are helping someone you don't even know.”
Hans agreed and said it was always in Christian's nature to be a peacemaker and care for others.
“He was the type that would go up to people and tell them it wasn't worth it if there was an argument. So, this made sense to him.”
The Nelsons had the opportunity to hear Christian and Kaylon's heart beat and tears appeared in their eyes as they realized their son's heart would beat long after his death.
“It's hard don't get me wrong,” said Jenn. “But to know that he saved a life, it helps.”
Hans told a quick moment to reassure the teen that although Christian died so that he could live, he should never give a second thought to it.
“He was going to go. Organ donor or not, he was going to die. So when you lay your head on your pillow for many, many years to come, know that this was meant to be,” he said as he sat across from Kaylon.
Kaylon gratefully told the family, “Thank you, you saved my life.”
However, he was not the only life Christian saved. The 19 year old's organs saved four more, gave sight to two others and several benefited from his tissue donations.
The Nelsons said they would be up to meeting others who benefited from his donations, but for now are excited to get to know the family that will forever have their hearts a little better.
Kaylon has a long road to recovery ahead of him, but has dreams of one day being a high school football coach.