California Mom Hears Dead Son's Heartbeat Through 4-Year-Old Transplant Recipient: 'The Sound Was So Strong'
brightcove.createExperiences(); Heather Clark will never forget the comforting rhythm of her late son’s pulsing heart.
For the first time in three years, Clark was able to hear the heartbeat of her son Lukas – who tragically died in 2013 – with a stethoscope pressed to the chest of the 4-year-old girl who received his heart.
“The sound was so strong,” Clark, 25 tells PEOPLE. “I could feel him there with me. He is continuing on through her, no doubt.”
In an incredibly tender meeting that took place Friday morning, Clark was introduced to Esther Gonzalez and her daughter Jordan Drake, Lukas’ heart transplant recipient, who offered to let the grieving mother listen to her son’s heartbeat.
“In that moment, it was just me and him, we had been on this long journey together and we both knew this was the end point,” Clark, a Rancho Cucamonga, California, resident, tells PEOPLE. “He’s gone, but he will keep living through Jordan forever.”
Clark says it was a “difficult decision to sign the donor paperwork,” while Lukas – who was only 7-months-old when he died from complications of alleged child abuse at the hands of a non-family member – was in the hospital.
“I knew I couldn’t do anything with his organs once he passed away, so I thought why not save someone else’s life,” she says. “But when I signed off permission, I knew my baby was 100 percent gone. And that was so hard.”
But when Clark met Jordan – the “happiest and most energetic little girl” on Friday – she knew she had made the right choice.
“Lukas has given Jordan this chance at life and I know he is looking down, wishing her the best and telling her to live her life to the fullest,” she says.
Clark and Jordan’s mother, Esther Gonzalez, began communicating late last year about the possibility of meeting.
“The donation was anonymous, so it was up to us to find each other,” says Clark. “We were both writing letters and social media messages trying to locate one another, but we kept missing each other until this year.”
The two families finally connected through a Facebook message on Thanksgiving Day 2015.
“I was so nervous to meet Jordan,” says Clark. “But when I finally saw her, it felt like I was meeting an old friend. I ran to her and hugged her.”
Jordan, who was born with a heart condition called mitral valve regurgitation, was only 15 months old when doctors told her family she would need a heart transplant in 2013.
“We were so scared,” Gonzalez, 34, tells PEOPLE. “We thought she would never get a heart.”
The mother says they ended up waiting only one month before receiving news of Lukas’ organs.
“Heather was going through the most pain and sadness of her life and she was brave and selfless to think of others at that time,” she says. “She made that insanely hard decision, and we are so thankful to her and her son.”
Gonzalez says Jordan doesn’t quite understand who Lukas is, but plans to explain everything to her daughter when she gets older.
“I’m going to tell her that Lukas saved her life. It’s a story about a mothers sacrifice and a little boys sacrifice,” the mom says through tears. “It’s important for her to know about Lukas and to know that he gave up a lot for her to live.”
Gonzalez and Clark have become very close since meeting, and they plan to get together whenever possible.
“We tell each other we love each other, because we are in this life together now,” says Gonzalez. “Lukas will always be here in Jordan. It’s beautiful.”
The grateful mom adds, “I can’t express how important organ donation is. Why would you not do something heroic before you go? Why would you not save someone else’s life? Heather and Lukas saved Jordan’s life and it means everything to us.”