Family of teen who donated organs to South Hadley transplant recipient meet in Virginia

Hampden County

RICHMOND, Va. (WWLP) – Dakota Reid, 16, was killed last year in a multi-vehicle crash in Dinwiddie County. The teen’s donated organs saved at least five lives, including one Massachusetts man who was in need of a heart.

After patiently waiting for a year and a half, the two families were brought together Thursday for the very first time with one thing in common: love for Dakota Reid.

The man who received the heart, Robert O’Connor, was greeted at Richmond International Airport with a hug from Reid’s father, John. With each family circled around them, both men shared an emotional embrace in the airport as J. Reid got another chance to hear his son’s heartbeat with a stethoscope.

“Thank you,” J. Reid said.

“No, thank you,” O’Connor responded.

O’Connor, who suffers from cardiomyopathy, told 8News he spent two months praying for a new heart. “Unfortunately, John lost a son but I got my life back,” he said outside the airport. “Never thought I was gonna make it.”

READ MORE: South Hadley man gets heart transplant, creates build-a-bear with heartbeat inside for donor’s family

Tragedy for the Reid family gave O’Connor the chance to live. In February, O’Connor gave the teen’s family an unexpected gift. He went to a Build-A-Bear Workshop and put a recording of D. Reid’s heartbeat inside a bear to give to the teen’s family.

“There’s two things you never forget in life. It’s the very first heartbeat before he’s born and his last,” J. Reid told 8News on Thursday. “And I’m blessed I can hear it over and over and over.”

Once strangers, now they say they will be lifelong friends. “It’s amazing, I can’t wait to get to know him, you know,” J. Reid said.

Both men said that more people should realize how being an organ donor can transform lives.

“There’s a lot of people on lists who don’t make it,” O’Connor said.

“Not only do you save a life,” J. Reid explained, “but you prolong the life of the loved ones that you lost.”

The families plan to spend the next few days together to get to know each other and share stories about Dakota.

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