US heart transplant teen to visit Bermuda school where his donor studied
Four years after his sudden death, 15-year-old Warwick Academy student Dakarai Tucker is still making a difference.
Ryan Miller, who received Dakarai’s heart in a transplant, will visit Bermuda this weekend as part of an ongoing documentary begun after the lifesaving surgery.
Dakarai was at school in January 2008 when he started suffering serious head pains. His condition rapidly deteriorated and he was rushed to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital and medevaced to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
It was discovered that a blood vessel in his brain had ruptured, and he fell into a coma.
While Dakarai was clinging to life, 16-year-old Ryan was facing his own medical challenges in New Jersey.
He was diagnosed with bronchitis in December 2007. When his condition failed to improve doctors ordered X-rays which revealed that he had an enlarged heart.
After a battery of tests he was diagnosed with a serious heart abnormality known as a non-compactive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The illness greatly diminishes the heart’s ability to pump blood, causing the heart muscle to enlarge and eventually fail.
Doctors hoped an internal defibrillator and medication would help the teenager, however he suffered a cardiac arrest. It was then determined that Ryan would need a new heart.
That new heart came on January 25 Dakarai lost his battle for life and his family made the choice to donate his organs.
Dawna Tucker, Dakarai’s mother, said: “It was an easy choice. That was the type of person my son was.
“Dakarai was easy-going, he was a leader, he was a member of the national football team. He was training every day but never let his grades slip. If there was a perfect son, he was it.”
Mrs Tucker said she had no knowledge about where her son’s heart went until a chance encounter last summer.
“My brother went to a football tournament in New Jersey in July and through talking with different people there, we discovered who received Dakarai’s heart,” she said. “He plays football just like my son. It’s a complete coincidence.
“I wrote them in September last year, and they had our contact information but didn’t contact us until just recently. Ever since the transplant he has been making a documentary and he decided to come to Bermuda, to Warwick Academy, to shoot a section of it.
“We have never met him, we have never spoken to him. I’m really looking forward to it.”
The Ryan Miller Heart Foundation was started in the wake of the transplant. It is hoped the foundation and the documentary will increase awareness of the need for organ donors and raise funds to offset Ryan’s current and future medical expenses.