Heart Transplant Links Two Families

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SAINT LOUIS - A heart transplant saved a man in 2002, and he still maintains a relationship with the donor's family nine years later.  Nelson Thomas Jr. of Saint Louis was 49 at the time and fighting a losing battle with congestive heart failure.  Doctors told him that he had a week to live, and he desperately needed a heart transplant.

Twenty-one year old Jacob Schaffer wished that his organs be donated in the case of his death, and his decision was honored after a fatal car accident in July, 2002.  Thomas received the heart donation and started a relationship of gratitude with the donor's mother, Kelly Deline. 

He calls her every Mother's Day to remind Deline that he is thinking of her.  The connection does not end with Thomas.  The recipient's mother, Eva Thomas, expresses gratitude for her son's life and sends Deline cards on every special occasion. 

Nine years later, Deline still feels the pain of Jacob's death.  However, she expresses contentment because her son would approve that his wishes were respected. Deline also finds comfort in the fact that a part of her son lives on through Thomas and the other recipients.