Slain son lives in gift of life: heart transplant bonds two families
The mother of a young man who was shot to death while delivering pizza pressed her head against the chest of the man who now has his heart.
She stayed there a while, quietly crying and listening.
“I reached right up and felt his heart beating,” Teresa Gardner said at the emotional meeting Monday. “I felt very blessed that my son is still here with us, just in another dimension.”
Her son, 20-year-old Maraleius Gardner-Birdsong, was shot to death in March while delivering a pizza in a North Charleston apartment complex. Two teens have been charged in his death.
His organs saved the lives of four people, according to LifePoint, which coordinated the donations.
Timothy Jordan, 42, of Darlington received his heart. He and his family drove to LifePoint’s North Charleston office to meet his donor’s mother for the first time.
“I was happy that I was going to receive a heart to prolong my life, but it was sad that someone had to pass away for me to live on,” Jordan said through tears. “That was the hardest thing for me.”
Gardner-Birdsong was a straight-A student at Trident Technical College with plans to get an engineering degree at The Citadel. He chose to designate himself as an organ donor on his driver’s license.
Jordan was a supervisor at Georgia Pacific when he was struck down by a blood infection that shut down his organs and destroyed his heart. He got Gardner-Birdsong’s heart in March and has been gradually regaining strength.
A floragraph, a photo-like image of Gardner-Birdsong made from flowers and plant parts, will be on a float in the Rose Parade Jan. 1, along with those representing 71 other organ donors. The Donate Life float, big enough for 30 riders, is a colorful series of looping hearts.
The floragraph was made mostly by volunteers from One Legacy-California. Gardner-Birdsong’s family and friends will put the finishing touches on it this morning at LifePoint.
The two families said they forged a connection Monday that’s hard to express with words.
“I feel like … I’m part of her now and she’s a part of me,” Jordan said.
“This is a bond … that’s never going to broken,” Gardner said. “We’re always going to be tied together now.”
Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553 or twitter.com/dmunday.