St. Louis heart transplant recipient meets family of organ donor

Published: Aug. 13, 2022 at 5:33 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - Heart transplant recipient Darren Garmer met the family of the organ donor who saved his life.

In November of 2019, Garmer had a severe heart attack with 100% blockage in a main artery. In August of 2020, Garmer was listed on the transplant list.

Five months later on January 11, 2021, Garmer got the call that changed his life.

“At 4:04 is when I received a call and I heard ‘Hi this is Mary and I’m your transplant coordinator. The doctor has selected a heart for you,’” Garmer says. “It’s every emotion that you have simultaneously. You’re excited. You’re scared. It’s bewilderment. You’re nervous.”

That heart was donated by 30-year-old Tennessee resident Cheston Miller, who died after being hit by a car.

Cheston’s father, Andy Miller, describes him as a loving, funny and giving person. All of that is what led Cheston to become an organ donor.

“We didn’t have to talk with the donor people at all,” Miller says. “He had taken care of it. We would all save our family’s grief if we go ahead and do that, in the event that it happens. Life is short and it can happen to anyone at any moment.”

Garmer wrote a letter to the Miller family, hoping to meet them one day.

“On a soul level, I bonded with Cheston’s heart in the hospital,” Garmer says. “I feel this magnetized feeling to wanna know them and hug them and be a friend to them.”

That meeting happened for the first time on Saturday. Garmer met Cheston’s mother, father and brothers. The meeting happened one week before what would have been Cheston’s 32nd birthday.

Cheston’s family was able to listen to the beat of his heart again, but this time through Garmer.

“The legacy of their loved one won’t be forgotten because with every beat of my heart, they live through me,” Garmer says.

Both Garmer and the Miller family urge people to consider becoming organ donors.

Additionally, they are asking everyone to remember just how precious life is.

For more information about organ donation please visit Barnesjewish.org/donatelife or https://www.organdonor.gov/sign-up.