Nova Scotia

N.S. mother hears her son's heartbeat a year after his death

Donna Nugent of Trenton, N.S., heard her son Michael's heart beating on Sunday in the chest of a 17-year-old transplant recipient. "The biggest part of my Michael was his heart," says Nugent.

Meeting the transplant recipient was 'a miracle,' says Donna Nugent

Donna Nugent and Jacob Basque met for the first time on Sunday in Trenton, N.S., at a softball tournament in honour of her son, Michael Collier. (Submitted by Donna Nugent)

When Donna Nugent heard her son's heartbeat more than a year after his death, she knew it was the miracle she'd asked for. 

Michael Collier's heart is now inside the chest of a 17-year-old who reminded her a lot of her only son, who she said cared for everyone he met. 

"The biggest part of my Michael was his heart," the Trenton, N.S., resident told CBC's Mainstreet.

Collier died after a car crash on Sept. 17, 2018, at age 23.

At the QEII hospital in Halifax, Nugent leaned against her son's chest to hear the steady beat of his heart, and she promised him his heart would go to someone in need. 

Jacob says he feels connected to someone he never got to meet. (Submitted by Donna Nugent)

It only took Nugent 48 hours to find out through social media who that someone was: Jacob Basque of Eskasoni, N.S. He had dilated cardiomyopathy and needed a heart transplant. 

The two families stayed in contact over Facebook, and on Sunday, they met for the first time, at a charity softball tournament in Collier's honour.

"I had a hole in my heart and I felt like I needed to hear Michael's heart inside of Jacob, which is now Jacob's heart, to feel a little bit of closure and to know who this boy was," Nugent said.

Basque admits it's hard to put into words what it felt like to meet the family who gave him a second chance at life.

"It's an unbelievable feeling and I'm super grateful," he said. "Like, I couldn't do anything. I couldn't go walking with my friends. I couldn't go to the mall with my friends."

'My heart was just going like crazy'

Jacob was 15 when a routine visit to the dentist identified an irregular heart rate.

"My heart was just going like crazy, like the EKG was really messed up," he said.

The teen was soon diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, which meant he couldn't play hockey.

His life is getting back to normal thanks to Collier's organ donation.

Collier died at age 23 following a car crash. (Submitted by Donna Nugent)

Collier had a big group of friends, but always made time for his family, Nugent said. 

"He was my best friend," she said. "He was very caring. He was one of a kind. He always gave, no matter what situation he was in."

She said she asked her son for a miracle, and now realizes that miracle is Jacob.

"This boy was standing in front of me that might have met death if it might not have been for Michael's heart," she said.

"And just watching him was a miracle. It was a true blessing in disguise."

Hear Donna Nugent of Trenton, N.S., talk about what it was like to meet Jacob Basque, who received her son Michael's heart. 12:31

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With files from CBC's Mainstreet