CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - You might call it a match made in heaven.
A teenager dies, and against the odds, her heart can be used as an organ donation to save a friend's life. FOX 32’s Larry Yellen reports on a heart transplant which brought two families closer together than they ever could have expected.
“I'm just glad that I was in the position to be able preserve life for somebody else, even though I lost my baby,” said Vicki Olds.
Last summer, Vicki lost her only child, which was her 18-year-old Nikki in a drowning accident.
Nikki was a pre-med student. She and her mother were big believers in organ donation, and as Vicki said goodbye to her daughter, she learned that a longtime friend had a younger sister, Tanisha Basham of University Park, who needed a heart transplant.
Soon after, Tanisha got a call from her sister.
“And she said, Vicky wants to know if she can have you tested for her heart. And I said, I can't hear this, I can't hear this. I can't handle it, I dropped the phone. And the next morning, I get the call from the hospital, and they say, we have an offer for you,” heart recipient Tanisha said.
Turns out, Nikki's heart was exactly what Tanisha needed.
“Fortunately, the match was proper, the size was proper, and it was the right heart for her,” said Dr. Antone Tatooles of Advocate Heart Institute at Christ Medical Center.
“Vicki came over to me and she's like, ‘Tanisha, there's no one else I would ever want to have her heart than you. Don't feel bad about this, Nikki would want you to have her heart. And now we're connected by blood forever. You have my baby's heart in you’,” Tanisha said.
Tanisha’s own heart muscle was failing, and she had been using a heart pump to survive. She had been on a waiting list for a heart transplant for 18 months.
Surgeons at the Advocate Heart Institute at Christ Medical Center performed Tanisha's heart transplant last June.
“She's done exceedingly well over last seven months, so we think the prognosis is great,” said Dr. William Cotts.
Tanisha always invites Vicki to come along for her echocardiograms, where they can see and hear Tanisha's new heart. Vicki will never forget the first time.
“I watched that for 45 minutes, and then I actually heard her heart. And I just sat there and cried. I couldn't stop crying. To know that this is my baby living inside Tanisha. It was the most overwhelming thing a parent could ever experience,” Vicki said.
In her passing, Nikki has helped others survive. Her lungs, her kidneys and her liver have also been donated, and her mom has set up a foundation to help youngsters in the performing arts.