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Organ donation brings joy after heartbreak

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A gift of life born out of tragedy forged a special bond between American José Famania and Bermudian Charmaigne Laws.

It is because Mr Famania received the heart of Ms Laws' 20-year-old daughter Chardré Yawana Outerbridge Young after she died in a road accident 16 years ago.

Ms Laws said the first time she met Mr Famania was “the day I gained a son”.

The two connected after Ms Laws wrote a series of letters to the New England Donor Service ten years after her decision to donate her only child's organs to help others.

She said: “My prayer was, if anyone responds, let it be her heart recipient.”

Ms Laws added: “Once we connected, the first thing he asked was, can I call you mom?”

Mr Famania, from Florida and on his third trip to the island, was only one of the recipients of Ms Outerbridge Young's organs.

His adopted Bermuda family will spend Thanksgiving with him in Florida this year and Ms Laws was a guest of honour at his wedding three years ago.

Ms Laws said: “It was something I never thought I'd be able to do after losing my daughter.

“I would never walk her down the aisle and see my grandchildren. For me that day, that was my sweetheart guiding me.”

Mr Famania said he had wanted to meet the family whose brave decision gave him life.

He added: “It was something I had to do. I wanted to thank them in person. I felt like I was complete.”

Mr Famania said that he was used to being touched on the heart by Ms Outerbridge Young's family.

Ms Laws added the loss of her child meant her life could never be the same but that “knowing José has brought a lot of joy”.

She appealed for those faced with the same choice she was to donate organs.

Ms Laws said: “I try to drive home to people the importance of organ donation.

“Out of one death, up to 50 lives can be changed. And it has changed lives. It's miraculous.”

Ms Outerbridge Young's father André Outerbridge admitted talking or thinking about the loss of his child was “very tough”.

But he said: “To see someone survive, to actually see them, is mind bending. To see how healthy he is — it's wonderful.”

Mr Outerbridge said he had struggled when first asked about donating Ms Outerbridge Young's organs.

He added: “But this could save lives — why not? I would encourage people to be donors — my daughter lives on in someone else.”

Mr Outerbridge said it was not the only tragedy his family had had to deal with — his sister Charlene Outerbridge lost her son Kenneth “Poochie” Simmons after a road accident in June and made the same decision to give life to others.

Mr Simmons, who was 46, was flown overseas to the Lahey Hospital and Medical Centre in Massachusetts, but lost his fight for life.

Ms Outerbridge said: “When they asked us about it at Lahey, I was taken aback.

“Then I thought about Kenneth, knowing he was a person that always gave.

“It was an opportunity to allow him to give to somebody else. It was a good feeling knowing his heart would live on in someone else.

“God gave his life for us and I wanted to do something in turn.”

Mr Simmons' heart, kidneys and liver were all used in transplants — and Ms Outerbridge said she had been told that all the recipients are doing well.

Mr Famania told her last night: “One day, you might meet one of them.”

She said: “It's only been five months. But one day I hope to meet one or all.”

Jose Famania, centre, is reunited with Charmaigne Laws and Andre Outerbridge. Tragedy claimed their daughter's life in 2002 - but her heart lives on in another (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)
Homecoming: from left, LaTanya Outerbridge, Charlene Outerbridge, Andre Outerbridge, Laquita Outerbridge, Cleopa Wade, Lexa Hart, Shawnette Outerbridge, Charmaigne Laws, Jose Famania and Kent Laws (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)

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Published November 03, 2017 at 9:00 am (Updated November 04, 2017 at 12:35 am)

Organ donation brings joy after heartbreak

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