Five months after he lost, he lost his 20-year-old daughter Abbey, Bill Corner felt like he had to do something to honour her short life. Just a day after his son Austin graduated from college, he hopped on a bike and began riding across the country because he says that’s what his daughter would have wanted him to do.
On Father’s Day, Bill decided to travel 2,600 miles from his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to visit Broward Health Medical Center, the hospital that recovered Abbey’s organs for donation back in January.
Abbey was 16 when she decided to donate her organs. Bill says, “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.” Abbey and her brother were found unconscious, face down in a resort pool over winter break in Cancun. By the time the pair were discovered and pulled out of the water, Abbey had suffered an irreversible brain inj-ury. She was flown to Fort Lauderdale, where she was kept on life support until doctors could harvest her organs for transplant.
As she bid her final goodbye, another family had a drama going on in their lives. A 21-year-old boy named Loumonth Jack Jr. from Louisiana suffered a heart at-tack and was told that his heart was quickly failing and that he had a few days to live. Abbey donated four organs to four people, of which one was Jack, to whom she had donated her heart. When Bill informed the Florida donation centre that handled Abbey’s organs about his decision to ride on her behalf, the group sent letters to every recipient asking if they would be interested in meeting the girl’s father, and the only person who responded was Jack.
Bill was given Jack’s contact details, and they arranged a meeting in Baton Rouge on Father’s Day. When Bill met Jack, he felt like he already knew him, and the pair walked towards one another with their arms outstretched. After sharing a minute-long hug, Jack pulled out a stethoscope so that Bill could hear his daughter’s heartbeat for the first time after her de-ath.
Listening to the heart-thumping, both men began to tear up. In a conversation with WAFB, Jack said, “She saved me, and I can’t repay her. I wish I could but, I can’t. All I can do is send my love to her family.” The family also made a recording of Jack’s heart so that Bill could listen to it as he rides. After the meeting, Bill continued his journey to spread awareness about the importance of organ donation.