CEDAR RAPIDS, I.A. (Valley News Live) Two families now bonded by a beating heart met for the first time earlier this week.
A car crash near Mapleton last June left a 22-year-old West Fargo man brain dead, but a piece of Cameron Bolton now lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
For Iowa native Jeremy French, the hospital is like a second home.
"I bet you my medical books are like this long. I don't know. I was in and out of the hospital a whole lot," French said.
Born with two holes in his heart, French eventually had to get a pacemaker at only 16.
"It just really sucked. It was not good," French said.
Over the years, French says his heart continued growing larger and working harder.
"(The doctor) was showing us all the tissues and she was like, 'None of this is supposed to be see-through.' It was all just stretched and a normal vein is like this big, and mine was like this, so it wasn't... It wasn't good," French explained.
In the summer of 2017, French was admitted to Mayo Clinic and put on the transplant list where he would wait for 347 more days.
Just one day before French got his life-changing news, the family of Cameron Bolton received heartbreaking news.
"It's hard to understand why a perfectly healthy 22-year-old would lose his life, but when you see the impact of what he was able to do after his life is just amazing. I mean, we saw it in walking, breathing proof today," Arlin Fisher, Bolton’s stepdad said.
Not only did Bolton’s family see his impact as they traveled over 500 miles, they got to listen to his impact as well—Hearing Bolton’s heartbeat for the first time.
"It's just nice to know that part of Cameron is still here. And (French) promises to take good care of it," Sarah Fisher, Cameron’s mom said.
Since his passing, Bolton’s organs and tissues have given gifts to dozens of people—A comfort for his mourning family.
"You hope that if you ever need that organ or a burn victim needs that tissue, that there would be someone who would be as giving as Cameron,” his mom said.
And that's the message Fisher says they've been working hard to spread— Debunking the myths around organ donation and sharing Cameron’s story in front of local high schoolers, Lion’s Clubs and those at the DMV.
"Don't worry about how old you are, how young you are, or what health conditions you are in," Arlin said.
"Without donors there's people that won't have their husbands, won't have their children," Sarah said.
Now, Bolton’s family gets to share the story of Jeremy French— The man, who now at 32, finally gets to start living his life for the first time because of Bolton.
"For me, it was kind of like being reborn a little bit. Because I was born with the crappy heart, but now that I have a good one, it's almost like I get to finally be the person I want to be,” French said.
Bolton’s family has also went on to meet both his liver and kidney recipients this week—One in Iowa and another in Indiana.
For more information and to register to become an organ donor: organdonor.gov, unos.org, donatelife.net, life-source.org.