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Man Cycles 1,400 Miles to Meet the Man Who Received His Daughter’s Heart Donation

By Monica Buck

To hear her heartbeat once more on Father’s Day. That was the wish Bill Conner had when he hopped on a bike and left his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. His 20-year-old daughter Abbey had lost her life five months ago, and he just felt he had to honour her life somehow. And a long solo ride on his bicycle seemed just like the right thing to do.

Abbey and her brother were found unconscious, lying in a resort pool in Cancun over the winter break. Unfortunately, the girl suffered an irreversible brain injury, so she was flown to Fort Lauderdale where she was kept on life support until the doctors found a suitable recipient for her organs. Abbey became a donor as soon as she got her driving license at the age of 16.

“She registered. It’s something that she knew a long time ago. Unfortunately, it came to fruition, but that’s Abbey. If you had her as a friend she always had your back, and for her to be helping people in need – that fits who she is,” her father told CBS News.

When Bill Conner decided to honour her memory by making a 2,600-mile trip from his hometown to Fort Lauderdale, the Florida donation centre sent letters to every recipient of his daughter’s organs. Jack Jr. (21) was the first one to respond and agree to a meeting with Conner. They met on Father’s Day in Baton Rouge, 1,400 miles into the trip. After a long hug, Jack Jr. surprised Bill with a stethoscope, so he could hear his daughter’s heartbeat once more.

Bill Conner with his daughter Abbey.

“He’s a really humble kid. Obviously, you know, I’m a dad. His parents raised him well. He’s very courteous and respectful and he’s got an old soul. Knowing he’s alive because of Abbey, Abbey is alive inside of him. It’s her heart having him stand up straight, I was happy for him and his family, and at the same time, I got to reunite with my daughter,” Conner said.

“She saved me and I can’t repay her. I wish I could but I can’t,” Jack told CBS. Together with his family, he made a recording of Abbey’s heartbeat, so Conner could listen to it as he rides on to Fort Lauderdale.

“This is what she would want me to do,” Conner told CBS News.

“It’s about not being selfish and burying things that could help people live or live better lives,” Conner said about organ donation. “If you want a legacy – what better legacy could you have than to help people live?”