Years after getting the precious gift of life in a heart transplant, an Atlanta man got the chance Thursday to thank his donor parents in person. The two sides had an extremely joyful meeting for the first time at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
It was emotional day for Michael Haynes as he met for the first time the parents of the man who gave him a second chance at life and he's taking advantage of every minute he can.
"The doctors told me that everything has to be a match for heart transplant. They said Marc and I was a perfect match… A perfect match," Michael Haynes, heart transplant recipient.
Overwhelmed by emotion, Michael Haynes talked about the day he learned he was going to get a second chance at life. July 2, 2011 was the day he learned he was going to get a new heart thanks to Marc Materka. Materka had been on life-support following a seizure while swimming in a pool in Orlando. Hundreds of miles away, Haynes was at Emory where he had been waiting six months for a new heart, when the doctor broke the news.
"'I want you to hang on. I'm 99.9 percent sure I got a heart for you and you're going to get it.' And here i am today," Haynes recalled what his doctor told him.
Haynes found a way to find his donors family, Pat and Bob Materka. Over the years, they've corresponded with calls and letters, but Thursday, they met in person for the first time. The Materkas were flying through Atlanta to Florida.
"It's more than just your ordinary organ, you know. It maybe carries memories or something. I don't know. As soon as I saw Michael, I began sort of seeing expressions on his face that I almost recognized," said Pat Meterka, mother of donor.
Haynes has never forgotten about the Materkas. He sends cards every special occasion including Mother's Day and Father's Day every year. He vowed to not take Marc's heart for granted and has run two Peachtree Road Races in Marc's memory.
In fact, Haynes said not a day goes by that he doesn't talk to his so-called "guardian angel," never forgetting the life lost and the life given.
"I was so glad that I could end the story talking about Michael rather than loss of mark. It was the life going on with Michael," said Pat Meterka.
Marc Materka lives on not just through Michael Haynes, but one of his kidneys went to an uncle and the other to an older woman who had been on dialysis for years.
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