Late organ donor's mother meets heart recipient
The holidays are a time when families get together and celebrate the season, but for one woman, she is dealing with the loss of her son.
Rather than grieve, she is celebrating the fact that her son could save four lives with a medical miracle.
Photographs of Mauraleeus Gardner Birdsong tell a little about the life he lived; a friendly college student working part time with plans of attending The Citadel.
Those dreams would never be realized.
At the age of 20, his heart stopped beating after being fatally shot in the head while delivering pizza. It happened back in March.
His mother, Teresa Gardner, met the man who now lives after receiving Mauraleeus's heart through organ donation.
Mauraleeus's gift of life saved four lives. His liver, pancreas, kidneys were all donated. So were his eyes and heart.
And through the miracle of medicine and a gift of faith, his mother heard his heart beat again.
"One of the things that he said was that he didn't really have a heart beat after he got the new heart which I listened to when we walked in I put my ear to his chest and heard a perfect little heartbeat so that was both exciting and sad," Teresa Gardner said.
At a rare meeting for Mauraleeus's family, the transplant team, patients and supporters, Gardner explained it was Mauraleeus who made the decision when he got his South Carolina drivers license to be on the registry for organ and tissue donation.
"When Mauraleeus came and got his license in South Carolina he did it on his own and became an organ and tissue donor, and we are very proud," Theresa Gardner said.
As a result of a grant funded by the company that provides the organ preservative solution Mauraleeus's mother and grandmother will be a part of the donate life rose parade, the first time a low country resident has been honored in this way.
It is one that gives comfort to a family who understands when one ends, another can begin.