By Linda Dillman
When Andrea Taylor needed a new heart in 2017 to replace one damaged by a virus years earlier, little did she know a teenager she was praying for to recover from a motorcycle crash would be the one to give her new life.
Taylor, a Groveport Madison High School graduate and former Groveport Madison teacher, never had a heart issue until her junior year in college. The virus, a simple cold, got into her bloodstream and settled in her heart.
“A fluke, if you will,” Taylor said. “Unfortunately, this fluke caused me to need a pacemaker with a defibrillator to get me through the next 17 years.”
She graduated from Ohio Dominican University and began a teaching career that spanned 10 years before learning in February 2015 her heart was failing. A year later, she suffered a stroke and was so weak she slept up to 20 hours a day.
“On Jan. 21, 2017, I was listed on the heart transplant list,” said Taylor. In the meantime, she learned on Facebook of the crash involving 18-year-old Lydia Stewart, an Eastland-Fairfield Career Center graduate.
“I prayed so hard for her. She was so young. She had her whole life ahead of her,” said Taylor.
On March 6, 2017, Taylor received a call from the transplant coordinators telling her that they had found a heart for her.
Before going into surgery, she again posted on Facebook asking for prayers for herself, her family, the doctors and the donor’s family. A message came through asking Taylor what she thought were the chances that Lydia was her donor.
Stewart had succumbed to her injuries and donated her organs including her eyes and tissue. According to Taylor, Lydia saved three people by donating her heart, kidneys, pancreas and liver.
Two people in Egypt were able to see again with cornea donations and 50 people could have a better life because of Lydia’s tissue donations.
It was not until eight weeks after the heart transplant that Taylor learned Stewart was her donor.
“I received a letter in the mail from Lifeline of Ohio,” recalled Taylor. “I was so excited to open it. I was standing at the end of the driveway. I stood there with tears streaming down my face as I read it.”
Taylor met Lydia’s mother, Kelly, the day after Mother’s Day in 2017. When Kelly arrived, she told the family they previously met each other when Lydia was only six years old and the Stewarts bought a camper from Taylor’s family.
Kelly said she was buying the camper for Lydia because she showed horses in 4-H and they spent a lot of time at the fair.
“What are the chances? She slept in the same bunks I had slept in,” said Taylor. “I understand my case may not be the norm for organ donation, but her daughter’s choice of being an organ donor saved so many people at such a devastating time in her family’s life. This gives her mother comfort in knowing that her daughter’s heart is five minutes from her. She can listen to her daughter’s heart. She can see the impact her daughter has made in my life and in the lives of my family.”
According to Donate Life Ohio, every 10 minutes someone is added to the national transplant waiting list. One organ donor can save up to eight lives and one tissue donor can heal more than 50 lives.
For information on registering as an organ donor, visit DonateLifeOhio.org/register or register at the BMV when you apply for a driver’s license or state I.D. You are never too old or too young to donate.