Learn more about organ donation and how it is a beautiful thing through this daughter’s heart touching organ donation story about her father’s heart transplant.

Father & Organ Donor Heart Transplant Story from Amy Locurto LivingLocurto.com

Real Life Organ Donor Story

Since it’s Father’s Day, I wanted to honor my Dad by telling his heart transplant story in hopes to bring more awareness to organ donation.

The photo above was taken by me when I was about 9 or 10 years old. My dad was teaching me about photography.

My Dad’s Organ Donor Story

I got a lot of traits from my Dad. Ted Kelderman was super fun, talkative, stubborn, never met a stranger, a Mac nerd, loved photography and owned his own small businesses.

I sure wish he was still here, because he would have been commenting on my blog everyday and been my biggest fan. I’m sure Ted would have been emailing and commenting to EVERYONE in our social channels and made lots of online friends!

Most of all I wish he was here to see his grandkids. I know they would have loved to have had Grandpa Ted around.

Father & Organ Donor Heart Transplant Story from Amy Locurto LivingLocurto.com
Me with my Dad in the 1970’s

Heart Transplant Story

When I was 12, my Dad was on a list waiting for a new heart or else he would die.

This was a long and hard wait, because organ donation was pretty much unheard of back then. He was only 45 and it was hard to believe my normally larger than life Dad was so frail and sick.

It was such an exciting evening the night he got the call that a new heart was coming for him!

An ambulance was on the way to pick us up and the heart would be at the hospital when we got there! We made phone calls and then had enough time to get ourselves together by the time the ambulance arrived.

It was a long ride for me in the front seat of the ambulance. We didn’t know what was going to happen. This could be the night by dad lived or died.

I don’t know if my brain really could wrap my head around what was happening. It was exciting because I was 12 and going really fast in the ambulance, but it was also such a scary time.

At the Hospital Waiting for the Organ

Once at the hospital, we weren’t sure where to go. Imagine how my dad felt? He had just been visiting with family expecting to die and now he might get a second chance at life!

We were all a little frazzled, but my Dad was very excited and found directions on where to go, practically yelling at anyone in his path… “I’m here for a new heart!”. Little did we know, we had arrived before the heart, so we had some down time, just enough to freak out all over again!

Dad was eventually taken to a small room and we all huddled around him to give kisses and hugs, not knowing if we would see him again. Then he was off to be prepped while we prayed and waited for the heart.

Waiting for a heart just seemed so weird. So many thoughts were going through my head…

Who’s heart was it?

What had happened?

Who was the family who donated such a precious gift?

Would it all go well?

Would I be with or without a Dad tomorrow?

Then I heard two amazing words… “It’s here!”

I stepped out of the waiting room to see the surgeon doing a very fast walk down the hallway with a small cooler in his hand. WOW! It was time!

After this, my 12 year old brain is a blur. The surgery went great and Dad was okay.

We got to see him the next day and I think he actually came home in record time after less than a week. My Dad was the 36th person to have a heart transplant at Barnes Jewish Hospital, where now they have performed over 800 successful heart transplants.

Just recently my step-brother had a successful double lung transplant at Barnes as well. We are very thankful to them!

Life After an Organ Transplant

Just a week or two after returning home, my Dad was doing wheelies on his motorcycle!

Dad was given 5 years to live. He lived an extra 10 years, seeing me graduate from high school and college, getting to meet my future husband, enjoying his step-grandchildren and going on many trips with his family.

I don’t know who donated his heart. At the time, that information was kept private. All I know is that the donor was a 35 year old competitive cyclist who was hit by a car while training for a race.

I’m so thankful for the family who donated their loved one’s organs. Who knows how many other lives they saved as well?

What Are Some Organ Donor Facts?

  • More than 100,000 people are waiting for lifesaving organ transplants.
  • Every 9 minutes another person is added to the transplant waiting list.
  • 17 people die each day waiting for transplants that can’t take place because of the shortage of donated organs.

Each organ and tissue donor saves or improves the lives of as many as 50 people. Giving the “Gift of Life” may lighten the grief of the donor’s own family. Many donor families say that knowing other lives have been saved helps them cope with their tragic loss.

What organs can I donate after I die?

  • Kidneys (2)
  • Liver
  • Lungs (2)
  • Heart
  • Pancreas
  • Intestines
  • Hands and Face

What organs can I donate while I’m alive?

  • One kidney
  • One lung
  • A part of the liver
  • A part of the pancreas
  • A part of the intestine

How Can I Become an Organ Donor?

–> Click here to learn more about how to become an organ donor in your state. All you do is fill out a quick online form and they will mail you a card.

–> Click here to find your state to register as an organ donor.

Taylor’s Gift

If you are passionate about spreading the news of organ donation, please visit Taylor’s Gift. Taylor was a local to me Texas girl who died in a tragic skiing accident at age 13.

Taylor’s gift of organ donation blessed five lives through transplantation of her heart, liver, both kidneys, pancreas, and cornea. Taylor’s Gift Foundation strives to increase organ donation through the enlightenment and education of our youth.

I know my Dad would have been proud that I told you about organ donation.

Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful Dads out there!

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  1. oh wow, what an amazing story, I got chills! I have always been a donor, though I’ve never been touched by it in this way. My brother is an ER doctor and has carried that ice chest, serious miracles happening through tragedy. I’m so happy for you that you had that extra time with him.

  2. I can relate to your story. My husband had a heart transplant just over four years ago this past April. We were basically newlyweds, married only 3 1/2 years. Unfortunately I lost him in February. He had been getting sick again and they had relisted him for another new heart. But his new heart just stopped after having a cardiac catheterization and they don't know why. He was the most amazing husband and father to his children and mine. You were lucky to have so much extra time with your dad.

  3. Oh Amy, what a sweet story. I am missing my dad today as well. Blessings to you and yours.

  4. Wow, what an amazing story!I just came across your website today and LOVE it!!! I was familiar with I heart faces, but didn’t make the connection, I love to admire photography and am not very good and just realized it isn’t “my gift”.

  5. I just came across this website tonight. I have been an all-organ donor since I was twelve and went into secondary school (I’m in Ireland, not sure if it’s your middle school?).I pinned my organ donor card inside the flap of my schoolbag incase something happened to me on the way home from school. Never had a purse or a wallet back then, lol. My father signed on the back, my Mum not too happy at it. Now I am married with children of my own, I am still an all-organ donor. My husband has signed the back of my card and I carry one for all my kids since they were born. Hoping I won’t ever have to make that decision but if all hope is lost, it’s lost. Somebody else deserves a chance at life. SO glad you had another 10 years with your Dad. He sounded like a gem.

  6. Wow, what an amazing story! I would have had a nervous breakdown if I had gone through that at 12 yo. I am a HUGE organ donor advocate and I don’t even have a personal story, I just think it’s the ultimate act of selfishness to bury something in the ground while someone else dies needed it! Here in AZ they have specialized license plates that say, “Be an organ donor.”

  7. Amy, I am so glad you reposted this. That’s what happens when I go to the cottage in the summer – I miss wonderful posts like this. I am 99% sure I am registered as a donor but am going to click that link above and make sure. thank you!!

    What a beautiful story and testament to the importance of this choice.


  8. Hi Amy-
    I just came across your website today and LOVE it!!! I was familiar with I heart faces, but didn’t make the connection, I love to admire photography and am not very good and just realized it isn’t “my gift”. I was touched to see your Donate Life button. I am very passionate about this cause. Very dear friends of ours are the Squires. They lost their son 6 1/2 year old son Spencer to an undeteced brain tumor and he was able to save many lives with his organs and tissue. They have done many charitiable things in his memory and sponsored the Storch family this year and their particiption with the Donate Life float in the Rose Parade. I saw your blip about them as well and felt an instant kinship:-)
    I love your blog and am your newest fan!!! I can’t wait to use the Valentine’s this year for my boys. Hope you had a great time at Blissdom!!!

  9. Thanks for your touching tribute and information on HOW others can join in as a donor. I watched my brother, Jon, struggle for 44 years to breath as a result of having Cystic Fibrosis. It came down to just hours before he was to be on a ventilator while we waited for a pair of lungs to come in for him. At the last moment, lungs were available! Like you, I remember the excitement of seeing the helicopter touch down, and see the crew get out of that aircraft like it was on fire. they swiftly brought in the cooler holding my brothers life in their hands. Literally. It was a long operation…and is not as common as heart transplants (yet), but today he is alive, doing fantastic. He can breath on his own for the first time in many years. He speaks without coughing continually, and is sleeping through the night. He’s had little rejection and is stronger daily. He is even training for a triathalon now! Not even 5 months since the transplant. He is the sight of a living miracle. We praise God for His grace allowing him to live more life with his wife and 3 adopted daughters. We are so very thankful for the donor for which Jon’s life wouldn’t be possible. All we know is that the donor was a 22 year old male from Orlando. Half of Jon’s age. This boy was wise enough to be a donor and has now given my brother new life. EVERYONE should sign up. Go do it today..print out the card. Thanks again for the tribute.

  10. A little late to the Father’s Day post, but touched just the same. My dad was a blood donor all throughout his life and would have been an organ donor as well if his cancer hadn’t done its damage to everything. I finally found the courage to go in and donate blood on my dad’s birthday a couple years after he passed away (I have the same rare blood type that he did).

    Love the photo strips!

  11. This is a beautiful story. How cool that he taught you about photography! I am an organ donor, but I never was before 1995. That was the year that MY step-dad’s life was saved when he received a heart transplant also. He passed away at the age of 51, but he lived those 10 years with his new heart more fully than the other 40 years before the transplant. I’m a big believer in organ donation, as I have seen firsthand what it means. Thanks for telling the world about it and sharing your dad’s story.


  12. wow…i am sitting here with tears. what an amazing story. thanks for sharing it and encouraging others. i am already and organ donor, but this puts a face with the reason i chose to do it.

  13. BEAUTIFUL! That is an amazing story…your dad sounds like he was an AMAZING, loving man.

  14. What a beautiful tribute to your dad, brought tears to my eyes!

    I was not aware you could register as an organ donor online – I have the checkbox marked on my driver’s license, but I’ve registered at the website too. Also shared it through Facebook.

  15. Amy,

    Loved your tribute to your dad and seeing those pictures of him.

    You’re right, he was a special man and I know that I am one who was blessed to know him and have him (and the rest of your extended family) bless my life. Those pictures of him were awesome!

    Hoping you all are doing well.


  16. What a wonderful touching story to share..it brought me to tears!! I am an organ donor & proud to be!!! I am sorry for your loss..& God Bless you & the family who lost their loved one in the accident!

  17. Thanks for sharing this story, Amy!

    Your daughter looks so much like you, especially in the top right picture.

    About 12 years ago, I was on a long term consulting job at Barnes Jewish Hospital. It’s really a phenomenal place.

    Your dad would be so proud of all you have accomplished. I admire everything about you and I know others to do! KV

  18. What a beautiful post.

    My sister just got her new heart a few weeks ago. It is such a precious gift a family is willing to give to strangers.

    Needless to say I am a donor as well as most of my family.

  19. How touching this is. I am missing my dad as well. I have known a donor who had given his heart, kidneys and eyes and a recipient with a new heart. It is an amazing gift to give life to others.

  20. As the daughter of an organ recipient, I love that you are spreading the word about & encouraging donation!! My mother was diabetic from the age of 2, was told she would probably not live to be 16, and would never be able to have children. I was born a month premature, but both my mother & I came thru the pregnancy in basically good health. She was put on dialysis after her kidneys began to fail when she was in her late 30s. On February 29th (yes! leap day!) of 2000, she received a kidney & pancreas transplant from Ohio State University Hopsital. It’s been an amazing 10 years & she is still doing well. She has the occasional problem, but is no longer diabetic & is leading a full life. PLEASE DONATE!

  21. What a beautiful post Amy!!……nothing more special than a Dad and his daughter!!….I miss my Dad so much too!! he was ALWAYS my biggest fan too!……listened to my stories, looked at all my pictures, coached all my softball games, and always made me laugh! ?

    You’re story touched my heart….and reminded my why I’m an organ donor………{hugs}

  22. What a beautiful post honoring your Dad. My husband, daughter (16), and I are all donors – absolutely believe in it 100%.
    Thank you for sharing this.

  23. This is the first fathers day without my dad. He lived to 81 and died this past February.

    In the last 10 years our relationship was a bit strained, and I could rarely summon the patience to be around him for more than an hour or so each visit.

    But, now that he is gone, I feel like he understands things better (well from his viewpoint who wouldn’t) and I’ve found that we only hold onto the good memories. The bad ones have faded into the background. That’s the awesome thing with memories isn’t it?

    I am grateful that I was able to spend the last two weeks of his life with him and held him when he died. I believe that that has made *all* the difference.

    Wow, look at me here, pouring out my heart on a blog I’ve never commented on before!

    Thanks for the great post, clearly I was supposed to read it this morning.

  24. What a lovely tribute to your wonderful father. Having just lost my beloved father this spring, verging upon my first Fathers Day without him, I’m reading all the “dad posts” out there. My Dad was 92 and had a long life, but it hurts just the same. This thing with girls and our fathers, whatever it is, it’s intense. My father also taught me about photography & I was his darkroom assistant from the time I was 10 on. If you want to read it, here’s my eulogy for my Dad, the noted photographer Jim Steinhardt: http://thesquashedbologna.blogspot.com/2010/03/goodbye-goodbye-goodbye-jim-steinhardts.html

  25. This is a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing it.

    (Also: as someone who will eventually need a kidney, I applaud this post.)

  26. @Julie Luva,

    I hope you have 12 years and more! I’m so glad you shared your story. I hope it inspires others to become a donor. Sending prayers your way that your husband gets a new kidney fast!

  27. Absolutely beautiful post. Such a touching tribute to your father! My father is 17 years post heart transplant and we are thankful for each additional year he is given. Time is such a precious gift. I am sure your father would have been so proud. Your blog is just one of my favorites. So fun and inspiring. Thanks for inspiring others to become organ donors and so much more!

  28. Amy, I love hearing your story. Without going into all the details, my stepmom and step-aunt have both received kidneys and my uncle donated his eyes, pancreas, and heart (to 3 different people). Needless to say, my entire family has signed up to be donors.

    Donate life = a very good thing!!

  29. thank you for sharing your story and spreading the ‘donor’ word – I was blessed to be able to donate a kidney to my husband – 4 years ago – we are both doing well. His goal in life now is to be the longest living kidney recipient – I hope he wins!!! Nancy

  30. Thanks so much for your wonderful story. I am the recipient of a liver donation, with out it I would not have seen my children finish school, marry or seen my grandchildren born. I have been given 12 wonderful years and hopefully many more because of someones unselfish, loving gift. My husband is now waiting for a kidney transplant, the average wait is 2.5 years because so many are waiting. Hopefully your story and appeal will help shorten that wait for many others.
    Thank you. Julie L

  31. Amy,

    Thank you for sharing your tribute in honor of your father. So heartfelt and beautiful to read.

    My grandfather received a heart transplant when I was only around 6 or 7 years old. He has had the wonderful gift of meeting his first great-grandchild in 2007 (my daughter) and the most fulfilling life with 5 children, 10 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. All my family are organ donors. Nothing is more precious in life than helping others! 🙂

  32. your relationship with you dad was indeed a very special one. i wish i had such a close bond with my own father…how very lucky you both were to share so much. your post brought tears to my eyes…so sweet. i have been meaning to sign up as an organ donor for ages..just never have gotten around to it. after reading your post and using the link you provided my husband and i both signed up as donors. thank you again for this post..it touched my heart and compelled me to take action! xo

  33. thank you for sharing your story. your father sounded wonderful and i believe he can see a bit of what is going on in heaven, but maybe that is just wishful thinking that my mother in law can experience a bit of her grandchildren’s lives from there…
    after meeting a little girl who desperately needed a small bowel transplant and got it on thanksgiving two years ago, i finally convinced myself it was the only selfless thing to do to be an organ donor. if she had not received that organ, she would not have survived to five…a happy (mostly) healthy five year old! i be the parents who lost their child were so devastated, but i am grateful they were strong enough to be so generous and loving.

  34. Amy, I’m so glad your dad got the gift of life with the new heart to get to see you grow up. It’s a beautiful post and touched my heart. I know the love of a father is so special and will always be in your heart. Hugs friend~

  35. This is such a touching and sweet tribute to your dad. This was so inspiring that I immediately signed up to be a Texas donor. I hope that everybody who reads this will be inspired and touched the way I was and will sign up to be a donor as well.

  36. @C,

    Tell your husband THANK YOU for what he does. And thank you for taking care of the patients! You don’t know how much my dad’s doctor meant to him.

  37. *waving hands frantically in front of my eyes*

    Wow. What an amazing testimony!! How powerful. And touching. I am SOOOOOO not going to forget to call my dad tomorrow! Heck, I should go call him right now!!

    Really well done. Beautiful words.


  38. What a touching story. I worked as a nurse in CVICU and took care of heart transplant patients. My husband is a surgeon and does the transplants…this is the first time, in over 10 years that I had actually read a “family’s tribute” to a loved one who had recieved a heart.
    Very precious!
    Love it!

  39. What a beautiful tribute to your Dad – wonderful of you to share these memories. It sounds like he was quite the guy! We have talked to our kids about organ donation – both my hubs & I are donors … my daughter thinks it’s so cool that we can gift our organs to help others live … indeed. Bless you this Father’s Day as you embrace the memories of him.

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