Bill Conner faced one of the most horrific tragedies that could happen to a parent. Bill lost his 20-year-old daughter when she drowned on a family holiday. Most people could never imagine something like this happening and Bill knew he needed to do something to honour his late daughter.
Abbey and her brother were found face down, unconscious in a resort pool over the winter break in Cancun. When the pair were discovered and pulled out from the water, Abbey had, unfortunately, suffered an irreversible brain injury.
The family, naturally, struggled to cope and grieve with the loss of their beautiful daughter Abbey.
Before she died, Abbey had put herself on the organ donor list
She was flown to Fort Lauderdale where she was kept on life support until the doctors could harvest her organs for transplant.
5 months after Abbey’s passing, Bill Conner wanted to do something to celebrate her life and her kind nature.
On the 22nd of May, 2017, the day after Bill’s son Austin had graduated from college, Conner got on his bike and started to cycle across the country.
“This is what she would want me to do,”
Bill cycled over 2,600 miles to raise awareness of organ donation
Abbey’s father cycled from his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to visit the Broward Health Medical Center – the hospital that recovered Abbey’s organs for donation.
As soon as Abbey turned 16 and received her licence, Abbey made the generous decision to become an organ donor. She had previously discussed it with her family.
“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.”
While Conner was saying his last goodbye to his precious daughter, another family were facing their own drama. A few states south in another hospital, 21-year-old Loumonth Jack Jr was told that his days were numbered.
Loumonth from Lafayette, Louisiana, had suffered a heart attack and was suffering rapid heart failure. He needed a miracle which he got in the form of Abbey.
“He was given 10 days to live. With Abbey and the way things went – he’s alive today.”
Abbey donated four organs when she passed. This allowed four males (ages 20-60) to live. She also donated her eyes and other tissues.
When Conner informed the Florida donation center that he would be cycling to raise awareness of organ donation on behalf of Abbey, the center sent letters out to every recipient of Abbey’s organs to see if any would be interested in meeting her father.
“The only person who has responded at this point is Jack Jr., the heart recipient,”
Bill received Loumonth Jack Jr’s contact information and he reached out to the young man several times before they arranged to meet.
The pair agreed to meet in Baton Rouge on Father’s Day – 1400 miles into Conner’s cycle trip.
“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.”
When Bill Conner met with Loumonth Jack Jr, he felt like he already knew him. As soon as they saw each other, the pair walked towards each other with open arms and hugged immediately.
“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.”
The pair hugged for a whole minute before Jack surprised Bill. He listened to his daughter’s heartbeat for the first time
Jack had brought a stethoscope with him so Bill could hear his daughter’s heartbeat for the first time since she died. Both men had tears in their eyes as Conner listened to his daughter’s heartbeat for the first time since her passing.
As soon as Bill heard his daughter’s heartbeat, he burst into tears, hugging the recipient tightly.
“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 made a recording of Jack’s heartbeat. Bill listened to his daughter’s heartbeat as he cycled to complete his mission.
Conner continued to spread awareness on the importance of organ donation and he still encourages people to become an organ donor. He shares his daughter’s story along the way in the aims to encourage more people to sign up.
“It’s about not being selfish and burying things that could help people live or live better lives. If you want a legacy – what better legacy could you have than to help people live?”
Don’t forget to watch the emotional moment where a dad cycled 1400 miles and listened his daughter’s heartbeat in the video below. Also, at Happiest we love hearing all of your opinions. So please let us know what you thought of the article in the comment section. 🐝