Family of heart donor meets recipient
Candy and Tim Elam (heart recipient), Mary (Zachary’s mom), Jamie and Geralyn Abshire, Zachary’s godparents and (front) Grayson and Gilson Elam.
By: Melissa Hargrave
When 18-year-old Zackary LeMaire perished following a 2012 automobile accident, his family was devastated.
In support of his wishes, the LeMaire’s donated the young man’s organs.
Zachary’s family recently had the opportunity to meet one of the recipients, hear Zachary’s heartbeat, and realize firsthand the lifesaving act of organ donation.
In April 2012, Zackary LeMaire was in a fatal accident on the way back from a fishing trip. Zackary had made the decision, via his driver’s license, to become an organ donor. Even though he was brain dead, his body was left on a ventilator until his organs could be harvested, giving the young man the appearance of only being asleep. His heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, spleen, eyes, bone tissue, tendons and even muscle mass were taken and quickly shipped to needy beneficiaries.
Zackary’s death left a hole in the heart of everyone who knew him, especially his parents Jeffery and Mary LeMaire, his godfather Jaime Abshire, and his pregnant fiancé.
Two years after this tragic loss, the LeMaire family received the opportunity to hear Zackary’s heartbeat thanks to its recipient Tim Elam. Tim, a nurse with over 20 years’ experience, had been on the transplant list for roughly four months when he received the call that would forever change his life.
He was home at the time, caring for his two boys while his wife was at church. He immediately felt excited for himself but mostly for his family, because he knew what this live saving gift would mean to them.
Zackary’s heart was a perfect match for Tim, and the surgery only took three hours to perform. At first, his heart worked too well. Elam went from having a low heart rate and blood pressure to a fast rate and high pressure. Although his head and feet throbbed for weeks after, his body quickly acclimated to this new organ and his recovery went smoothly.
Tim recounts, “Emotionally it was the toughest time of my life. Between surgery and drugs, you have a lot to absorb real fast.”
Elam reached out to the LeMaire family through a letter. According to the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency (LOPA) website, it is up to the recipient of the organ whether or not they wish to contact the donor family.
When Zackary’s mother, Mary, received Tim’s letter, she was thrilled. She replied with contact phone numbers and address, and waited for further developments. This year Mary, along with her brother Jaime Abshire and his wife, were able to travel to Texarkana, Arkansas to meet with recipient Tim Elam, his wife Candy, and their two sons.
Their initial meeting took place in a hotel room, and neither party knew exactly what to say. The two groups quickly became friends and shared their experiences over the course of the next two days.
Mary learned that Tim now craves sweets, a trait he inherited from Zackary through a scientifically documented process called cellular memory. Tim allowed them to listen to his heartbeat, and there was nothing but thanksgiving on both parts.
Tim is grateful for a second chance at life, and Zackary’s family feel as though a part of him lives on.
Mary recalls upon hearing her son’s heartbeat, “It was exciting and emotional. There was a lot of crying involved.”
Jaime comments, “It was a miracle to know that even though Zackary is deceased and gone, his heart is still here. It is positive closure.”
“The donor family is fantastic,” says Tim, “Few ever get to find out where their organs come from.”
One of Tim’s young sons expressed the gratitude of his entire family by saying, “I can now have my daddy around while I grow up.”
The Elam’s plan on making a future trip to Kaplan to spend more time with the donor family.
Donating Zackary’s organs was difficult for Mary at the time, but now she is glad for it. “It was worthwhile. I am amazed at the impact. At first I was leery, but now I would do it all over again.”
Jaime speaks for everyone when he says, “If I had a choice, I would want Zackary back; but given the situation, this is the best outcome.”
Both the recipient and the donor family are adamant about the importance of organ donation.
In the United States, a person dies every eighteen minutes. Yet, in Louisiana, only approximately 150 people donate their organs each year. Registering to be an organ donor is easy. One can do so when they renew their driver’s license, or online at LOPA’s website: www.lopa.org. LOPA encourages open discussion so loved ones can know their family members wishes.
“Donation can’t be stressed enough,” remarks Tim, “Without it, I would not still be here for my family. Because of it, I was able to make my fifteen year wedding anniversary. Take every day as a gift for tomorrow is not guaranteed.”
Mary wholeheartedly hopes that additional recipients will come forward in the future, and she looks forward to meeting the people whose lives were saved because of her son.