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Ontario women hope to meet the recipient of a son's heart more than a year after his death



BRAMPTON, Ont. – A Brampton, Ontario. a woman hopes to meet the recipient of her son's heart when she tries to close more than a year after she died from an accidental overdose of fentanyl.

Sharon Vandrish said her 23-year-old son, Keerin John Reid, was taken from life assistance in September 2017 after he was declared brain dead.

He and his son's father decided to donate their four sons' organs, including his heart, through Trillium Gift of Life Network, donation and organ transplant services and the Ontario network.

"I only know that (Keerin) will want something good to get out of this tragedy," Vandrish said.

Six months after the organ was donated, Vandrish wrote a letter to the recipient of the heart and both have corresponded since then. He also wrote to three other organ recipients, but they did not answer.

"It's not like I'm trying to hold on to a piece of my child. I know he's gone," he said. "For me, this will only close one circle."

Letters sent between donors and recipient families are reviewed by Trillium to ensure they comply with a set of guidelines, such as not including identifying information, according to the agency's website. However, estimates of age and sex can be included. Although the agency allows families of donors and recipients to communicate anonymously, the agency does not connect them to meet in person.

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A representative from Trillium did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Vandrish said he felt sad at Christmas, because he lost his son and because he did not know the identity of the man who now has a heart. He then wrote a post on Reddit to see if he could make contact with the man.

"I think I'm frustrated at this process," Vandrish said. "I just want to reach out and see."

Keerin John Reid is seen in a photo of the leaflet provided by his mother Sharon Vandrish.

Sharon Vandrish / The Canadian Press

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But Vandrish said he had not been lucky, and for now, he overcame his son's death by going to a support group. He also had fingerprints of his son's thumb on a bracelet, and he said that he planned to make a tattoo to remember his "gift of life." Tattooed with his son's heartbeat since he was alive.

"It's just small things to keep him close and just keep those memories alive," Vandrish said.

He said that he also learned through correspondence with the recipient of the heart that he was a middle-aged father, whose brother died about seven years ago because of a heart disease similar to that diagnosed by the recipient.

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He said his son was a diligent soccer player and gardener, who eventually took over his backyard to grow flowers, fruits and vegetables.

Vandrish said he received a letter from the recipient who said he had just been gardening shortly after a heart transplant.


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