A Portland heart transplant recipient returned home Tuesday night after delivering a priceless gift to the family of the teenager who saved her life.
Shannon Lusby isn't able to thank her donor, and she says it's hard to come up with words to say to her donor's family.
The family didn't want words anyway; they wanted to hear their daughter's heart.
Shannon has a hereditary heart disease that already claimed her sister, her brother, and her father.
She made history in 1986 when she became the first woman in the Northwest to get a heart transplant. It lasted 20 years, and then she needed another one.
Melanie Miers was a California teen Shannon Lusby never met. In 2005, Melanie told her mother that on her 16th birthday she wanted put a donor sticker on her license.
A week later, Melanie was killed in a drive-by shooting as she left a friend's party. Her donation saved Shannon's life.
Several years later Shannon finally heard from Melanie’s mother, who had one request.
Shannon says Linda Meiers asked, “Can I listen to Melanie’s heart? I want to listen to my baby’s heart.”
After seven years, the two finally met.
“When I first heard it I was so excited to hear Melanie's heartbeat—a strong heartbeat. I was happy,” Linda said. “But then I started crying because my daughter isn’t here anymore.”
And then Linda told Shannon she felt like she could finally go on.
“Now I know it's your heart,” Linda told Shannon. “It's your heart, not Melanie's.”
All over Shannon's house, there are reminders of her lifelong struggle: Photos of her own family members taken by the disease that she has fought for decades. Now she adds to those reminders a photo of Linda, listening to her baby’s heartbeat years after the girl was taken away in a senseless act of violence.
Shannon said it can make her smile one moment, and cry the next.
Portland based non-profit Donate Life Northwest tells KGW that 18 Americans die every day waiting for a transplant. You can find out more about becoming a donor by visiting DonateLifeNW.org.
KGW Reporter Reggie Aqui contributed to this report.