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

Hampshire County

SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. (WWLP) – A South Hadley man’s life was saved by a heart transplant and now he is giving back to his donor’s family. 

For 10 years, Robert O’Connor’s heart condition, Cardiomyopathy, was controlled by medication. Then one day, he found himself being flown from Baystate Medical Center to Tufts Medical Center in Boston fighting for his life.  

“It was basically when I get a heart… if I get a heart”

It was then that Robert was placed on a special kind of life support to keep his heart pumping, but no one was sure how long it could keep him alive. 

After being bedridden for 10 weeks, Robert’s life was changed again, this time for the better. He was told he was getting a heart. 

“I got the heart, I got my life back!”

Robert O’Connor

O’Connor’s new heart came from Dakota Reid, a 16-year-old from Virginia who died tragically in an accident. After O’Connor and the Reid’s connected, he had an idea. He wanted the Reid’s to still be able to feel Dakota’s presence. 

PHOTOS: Dakota Reid

So, he made a build a bear they could keep forever with his new heartbeat in it, Dakota’s heartbeat. 

SOCIAL MEDIA: Dakota Reid

The gentleman who received Dakotas heart sent John Allen Lee Reid a build a bear with Dakotas heartbeat! ❤️❤️❤️. Thank you!

“We talked about meeting,” said O’Connor. “Someday in the future, we will meet so they could hear their heart and I said hopefully this will help until we meet.” 

Robert said he is forever grateful for the gift of life he received and keeps Dakota in his thoughts. He is now looking forward to having his life back. 

“Just being able to get outside walk do anything,” said O’Connor. “Go swimming with my granddaughter in my pool. Just getting back to life.” 

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