This article was originally featured in the BWH Bulletin.
Tears began to fall from Pat Lopes’ eyes as she gently placed a stethoscope on Brian Wade’s chest.
“I can hear it,” exclaimed Lopes, as she leaned in closer to Wade. “That’s Manny’s heartbeat. I can hear my son’s heart beat.”
Lopes, of Hyannis, MA, met Wade, the recipient of her son’s heart, for the first time at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) last month. It was an emotional gathering that both had hoped would someday come to fruition.
After suffering from advanced heart failure for several years, Wade got the call last Valentine’s Day that a donor heart was available.
“I wanted to meet Manny’s mother and his family so I could personally thank them for this extraordinary gift of life,” said Wade, of Portland, ME. “While I feel so fortunate that I was able to receive a new heart, I’m also sad that it means someone had to die. I’ll never forget that my heart beats because of Manny. I’m forever grateful that I am here today, thanks to one person’s decision to become an organ donor.”
For more than an hour, Lopes and Wade, along with their families, talked in a private meeting space in the BWH Shapiro Cardiovascular Center. Lopes, her husband, Manuel, and stepdaughter, Kimberly Lopes-Costa, shared stories about Manny. Wade, who came with his wife, Celeste, son, Travis, and close friend, Lisa Alexander, spoke about what his life has been like post-transplant.
Manuel (Manny) Lopes III died at age 42 due to medical complications stemming from a drug addiction he battled for many years. His mother described her son as the type of man who was always willing to help others. His decision to become an organ donor was an extension of his generous spirit, she said.
“He had a profound love for his family and friends,” Lopes said. “His sense of humor and smile could light up a room. He was genuinely a kind-hearted person who would give you the shirt off his back.”
During the meeting at BWH, Lopes shared photos of Manny with Wade. Manny’s stepsister showed the Wade family a tattoo on her arm, which depicts an electrocardiograph showing a snapshot of Manny’s heartbeat.
“I am happy to know that my brother’s heart still beats,” Lopes-Costa said.
The families also chatted with Michael Givertz, MD, medical director of the Heart Transplant and Mechanical Circulatory Support Program, who was part of Wade’s care team.
Givertz said while all transplants are special, Wade’s case was especially memorable because he received his heart on Valentine’s Day, a day that symbolizes love.
“Notifying someone that a donor heart is available is one of the most amazing calls we get to make to patients,” Givertz said. “It’s wonderful that these two families could meet so close to the first anniversary of Brian’s transplant.”
“I’m just glad to be here and to be doing well. Every day is a good day for me,” Wade said. “My entire perspective on life has changed since I received my new heart. I wake up every day thankful that I am still here. I want Manny’s family to know that I think about them and Manny often.”