As It Happens

Heart transplant recipient runs 10K as donor's parents cheer him on

John Dickhout ran his first 10-kilometre race in Ottawa over the weekend — and he did it in honour of Adam Prashaw, the young organ donor who made it all possible.
Adam Prashaw, left, died at age 22 of a seizure-related drowning. John Dickhout, right, is alive today because Prashaw signed an organ donation card when he was 16. (Submitted by Rich Prashaw/Lynn Dickout)

Story transcript

John Dickhout ran his first 10-kilometre race in Ottawa over the weekend — and he did it in honour of Adam Prashaw, the young organ donor who made it all possible.

Running a 10K was always on Dickhout's list of things to do after he received a heart transplant, he said. 

But it was made all the more meaningful by the fact that his donor's parents, Suzanne Corbeil and Rick Prashaw, came out to support him. 

"Both [Adam's] mom and dad were there cheering me on for the race and at the finish line, which made it very, very special," the 55-year-old Welland, Ont., man told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

"We've become really an extended family and good friends."

'A very difficult life'

Dickhout was on a wait list for a new heart for two months when he got the call in 2016 about a match. 

He didn't know it at the time, but his donor was a 22-year-old from Ottawa's Kanata neighbourhood.

"He was just a young, energetic kid who was living life to the fullest himself. But it was a very difficult life. He had suffered with epilepsy and had a couple of brain surgeries," Dickout said.

Prashaw, centre, and his parents, Rick Prashaw, left, and Suzanne Corbeil. (Submitted by Rick Prashaw)

Adam drowned in a hot tub in 2016 after suffering a seizure.

"His friend had left him for just 10 minutes. He had been seizure-free for some time and they thought he had perhaps kicked it," Dickout said.

"Unfortunately, a seizure took his life."

Signed donor card as a teen

A couple of weeks after Dickout's transplant, he exchanged letters anonymously, through Ontario's organ donation agency, with the Prashaw family. He later connected with them directly through social media. 

They later connected again on social media after Dickout learned more about the young man's life.

He read Adam's obituary, which describes the young man as as "an excellent goalie," a "Batman aficionado" and "a proud and outspoken member" of the transgender community.

Rick Prashaw listens to his son's heart beating in John Dickhout's chest. (Submitted by Rick Prashaw)

"It's probably the hardest thing to talk about because of what he and his family, and their decision, has come to mean for me and mine," Dickhout said, while holding back tears.

Adam's mother told him that when her son first received his driver's licence in the mail at age 16, she explained what the organ donation box meant.

"It was without hesitation that he said, 'Of course I want to help anybody that I could if it came to that,'" Dickhout said.

'We are so proud of him'

When the time came, his parents didn't hesitate either.

"It was the easiest decision we made as parents," Rick Prashaw told As It Happens by email.

"I have learned how important it was he not only registered as a donor, but he told us his wishes."

Dickhout crosses the finish line of a race in Ottawa this weekend. It was the heart transplant recipient's first 10K. (Submitted by Lynn Dickhout)

Dickhout says crossing the finish line while Adam's parents watched was "a very special moment."

"But there's been so many of those moments since we've come to know each other and discover each other's stories," he said.

"Even the stories of that weekend, that divergent weekend… when I got my life back and they lost such an important one."

Adam's father says he's proud of Dickhout's accomplishments, and grateful that he reached out after Adam died. 

"Indeed, we are so proud of him," he said.

"And so proud of Adam, aware that none of this would have happened without my son, Adam, being so generous and life giving."

Story written by Sheena Goodyear and John McGill. Interview produced by Anna Cianni.