Mom discovers deceased son's heart was given to family member

Mom discovers deceased son's heart was given to family member

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Months after she lost her son and found out he was an organ donor, a Hattiesburg mom wanted to know who received his heart as her Mother's Day gift.

But she soon found she did not need to look further than her own family.

Adrian Murry lost her son, Kendrick, on a Saturday in September 2015 after he had an accident at work.

After his death, she found out he was an organ donor. She was able to donate his kidney to the worship pastor, Michael Minor, at her church, but wanted know who had her son's heart.

"I said 'I want to know where his heart is,'" Murry said. "I designated the kidney. That was fine. But I wanted to know where his heart is, and I would be OK."

Clintoria Johnson, Murry's cousin, said her heart was only functioning at 10 percent and had been waiting on a transplant for almost two years.

"It had gotten where, the last time I went to the doctor, they said 'we're going to have to put you in a hospital and give you a vac,'" Johnson said. "That's how bad my heart had gotten that Friday. I prayed that Friday when I came (back home) from Jackson. I mean, Sunday morning before that day, I had gotten that call. They called me and asked how quick I could get to Jackson. I said as quick as I can. You tell me the time, I'll be there.'"

But neither Johnson nor Murry immediately knew Johnson's transplant came from Kendrick. Murry said she would see Johnson wearing oxygen tubes at monthly family birthday gatherings, but did not know what was wrong or that she needed a transplant.

"It was a surprise," Murry said. "I didn't know she was on the list. I didn't know what she needed. I really didn't know what was wrong. We have Sunday birthdays once a month over here, and she would come. I would see her with the tubes on her nose. There was this one particular time in August she asked me about my son. She said, 'where's your son?' I said, 'he's at work. You know how kids are.'  She said, 'well when you see him, tell him I said hello.' And I said 'OK.' It's odd, but that's exactly what happened. Then that next month, he had the accident, and he passed."

Johnson said, "Didn't know at all. They kept saying a 25-year-old young heart, you know. I said OK, but we didn't know what was going on. But everything just got to working together. It happened too quick. I said, 'it's got to be something. Got to be something. I just started putting my pieces together after they had said he got critical and he wasn't going to make it, but it still didn't dawn on me at that time that he was a donor."

Murry knew who received her son's kidney because she specially designated Michael Minor, the pastor at her church, to be the recipient, but the process is more complicated when the donation is anonymous.

According to the Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency (MORA), donor and recipient families "may receive such information as age, gender, occupation and state of residence," and "the donation agencies facilitate anonymous correspondence and meetings initiated by either the donor family or recipient and only if agreed to by both parties. It is only after extended anonymous communication, and the agreement of both parties, that the names are released."

"Maybe a few days later (after his death), they were like 'you know Clintoria went to the hospital, and I'm kind of thinking that's Kendrick.,'" Murry said about her family. "I said 'You think so?' So I was trying to find out, but I was told I had to write a letter and sign a release. It took me awhile to get to that point, but I said for Mother's Day, that's what I wanted to know. It's just too coincidental that my son passed that Saturday, and then here she is on her way. I said 'we're going to see.' It took me awhile to get to that point, to start writing, but I said 'yeah. We're going to have to find out.'"

Murry and Johnson received the letter with the donor's identity heart the Monday before Mother's Day.

"I was so nervous," Johnson said. "I wanted to know so bad, I didn't want to be by myself to open the letter."

Murry said that Monday was also the day before her son's birthday. She said she could not contain her emotions when she found out Johnson received his heart.

"I just lost it," she said. "I was hollering and screaming. My dad came and (asked), 'what's wrong? What's wrong?' I was like I'm OK. It just came at a perfect time. It was like that was his birthday gift, but to me. It was a pretty good Mother's Day."

Murry and Johnson said they have a newfound closeness, and support each other through difficult days.

"We are family in more ways than one," Murry said. "I think about her a lot. I call her and check on her. She'll call and check on me. I call her my son sometimes, my daughter."

Johnson said, "It means a lot to me. I just feel great. I'm just happy it's in the family. It's somebody I know. If I get depressed or whatever, I don't have far to go. I know where she stays. I can be there in five minutes."

Murry said, "I wanted to know it was in the family, and he is still in the family. That meant a lot to me. We were on a mission to find out, and we did. We did."

Now, Murry said she wants to find out who received his other kidney, lungs and liver.

"We've got to get to Florida because his other recipients are in Florida," she said. "I know there were some children involved, so that makes me even more excited to find out. Children, you know, they are the future, so to know that some children live because of him is just…," she said trailing off.

Murry said Johnson is coming with her.

"I told her she has to go," Murry said. "She has to go. We've got to figure something out, but we're going to do it."

Murry said she is taking classes with MORA to be able to teach others about organ donation and sign people up to become donors. She said despite her loss, she is thankful she has now bonds with so many because of it.

"Not just people directly related to his organs, but people in general," Murry said. "People that I meet and talk to about being an organ donor now because of his story. That means a lot to me. That means that he set out to do what he said which is bring people to Christ and save lives, and that's exactly what he did and what he's doing."