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18 years later, heart recipient meets donor’s family

Photo courtesy of the Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency.

Abram Jones and Lywanda White have shared a connection for 18 years but they only just met face to face for the first time on Saturday in Jackson…

Their journey began in the late 1990s when Abram was told that he would need a heart transplant.

Jones was an active man working as a dispatcher for the Jackson Police Department and as a free-lance photographer. He was happy and healthy. But in 1997, his health began to change.

Ultimately Jones found out the left ventricle in his heart was functioning at 11% and in April of 1999, he was told he would need a heart transplant.

“It never dawned on me that I would be dependent on someone else to stay alive,” said Abram Jones, the heart recipient.

While Jones was wondering what his future would hold, White’s father, Thomas Griffin, was working in Gulfport as a car salesman. Griffin was a Navy veteran, who was also a single father to the 23 year old daughter that he had adopted when she was just 13.

“He loved life,” said Lywanda. “He was a real simple man.”

Griffin was at work in September of 1999 when he began to have headaches.

He was taken to the hospital where eventually he suffered a brain hemorrhage and was pronounced brain dead. Lywanda knew what her father’s wishes were because they had talked about it.

He wanted to be an organ donor.

Ultimately, Griffin would be a multiple organ donor, donating his heart, liver and kidneys to save the lives of others, but his heart ended up in Abram Jones.

Lywanda said she had always wondered about the lives her father had touched through donation but she really wondered about the person that received his heart.

“I always wanted to know who and what because that is the part of what keeps us alive. That means he is still ticking somewhere. I was wondering did it take, how they were doing,” said Lywanda.

However, after three or four years she gave up on the chance of meeting her dad’s heart recipient.

Abram said he wasn’t sure how to go about process of meeting his donor family in the early years following his transplant but wondered about them from time to time. 10 years ago he said that the desire to meet that family started to really take hold on him.

“It was something that weighed heavy on my heart and as I got older I felt I needed to get in touch with the people that made this possible and to say thank you,” said the 68 year old Jones. “This year, for some reason, I decided that this was the year to do it. I didn’t know how many more years I’d have to connect with this young lady.”

This past week Lywanda finally got to meet the person that her father’s life changed.

With their family and friends present, Lywanda and Abram shared a warm embrace, as well as, a few tears.

As Lywanda placed a stethoscope to Abram’s chest she got to hear her father’s heartbeat for the first time in 18 years.

Their meeting took place Saturday at the offices of the Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency in Flowood.

“I didn’t know what this moment was going to be like,” said Lywanda. “I didn’t know what I was going to feel but when I saw him, I saw my dad.”

Lywanda said that she knew immediately afterward that her father’s gifts were not in vain.

“I’ve just wanted to know that my father’s legacy continued to live on and his spirit is living throughout the world,” said Lywanda. “I feel so blessed today. I know the decision I made 18 years ago was definitely not the wrong decision to make and I would make it all over again.”

For Jones, Lywanda is now part of his family.

“It bonded us together,” said Jones. “It is because of her and her dad, I’m still here. Because, had I not gotten the transplant 18 years ago, who knows where I’d be now.”

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