Published : Wednesday, December 27, 2017 | 5:06 PM
One of the riders atop the Donate Life float in the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day is a single mother from Little Rock, Arkansas, who received her heart from a 38-year-old woman who died on Christmas Eve of 2014 from an aneurysm and a stroke. The donor lived less than two miles from the recipient, KTHV station said in a report Wednesday.
When Melissa Owen got her driver’s license more than two decades ago, she had registered as an organ donor, her father, Paul, told the TV station.
“And that’s kind of the last thing we even thought about it, the last thing she thought about it, not knowing that, at a point in her life, she would suffer a stroke due to a brain aneurysm and pass,” Paul Owen said.
Owen recalls that when Melissa died, they found out that she was a match for more than one person on the national organ transplant waiting list. About a year later, her parents received a letter from the recipient, Yolanda Harshaw.
“Our daughter’s heart recipient did write that first letter,” Owen told KTVH. “And it came, and my wife called me, and I was at work, and she was in tears. And she said, ‘you won’t believe this, but we just got this letter from Melissa’s heart recipient, and more than that, she’s right here in town.’”
Owen says Harshaw had been on the heart recipient waiting list for only a day when she got a call on Christmas Day, telling her to get to the hospital as quick as possible for the transplant.
The Owen family and Harshaw has been close to each other since the recipient wrote the first letter, KTHV says. They speak on the phone, keep in touch through Facebook and see each other every so often. This weekend, they will fly to Pasadena, where Harshaw will ride in the Rose Parade, along with 17 other organ recipients on the Donate Life float, the report said.
Eight others, who are either recipients or living organ donors, will be walking beside the float during the parade.
Melissa Owen’s floragraph, along with those of 43 other organ donors, will be part of the float in the Tournament of Roses parade.
Paul Owen and his wife helped build last year’s float, and they will be working on this year’s edition, too. Since his daughter’s passing, Owen has become an advocate for organ donation. He speaks often on behalf of ARORA, the Arkansas Regional Organ Recovery Agency, a statewide agency to procure organs for those in need of transplants.