The Current

'His heart still beats strong to give life': How an organ donation united 2 families

While she still grieves the loss of her 20-year-old son to suicide, Pat Loder says meeting the recipient of his heart has given her a sense of peace and a ray of hope.

When the Loder family met the Buttle family there was an instant connection

Jodi Loder, right, listens to her brother's heartbeat for the first time, in the chest of transplant recipient, Rob Buttle. (Submitted by Pat Loder)

Originally published on October 23, 2018

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Two years after losing her 20-year-old son Jeff to suicide, Pat Loder met the transplant recipient who got his heart. 

"When I laid my head in on his chest I heard my son," Loder told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

"We could not have picked a better man, like he was a match in so many ways — it wasn't only the organ match."

On Sept. 25, the Loder family made the trip from their home in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, N.L., to meet the recipient, Rob Buttle, at his sister's house just outside Ottawa. The Loders found him after he shared some clues in a letter to the family.

The second that Loder hugged Buttle she said there was an instant connection "on a whole different level." Her daughter, Jodi, who was the first to embrace Buttle when he opened the door, calls it "a feeling of home."

"She jumped into my arms," Buttle told Tremonti, of the first meeting with the Loder family.

Jodi Loder listens to her late brother's heart beat in another chest

4 years ago
Duration 0:40
Jodi Loder listens to her brother Jeff's heart in Robert Buttle's body.

The feeling was mutual for Buttle and his family.

"I think Pat was right behind her as far as hugs … and you just don't do that to people you've never met before unless there is a real connection — and there was a connection," he said.

"I knew that they were good people, a good family and that sort of thing, but to actually see her, Pat — it's where it all came together," he said.

For Loder and her family, it wasn't so much finding Jeff's heart but knowing Buttle's life story that was important to them. 

Pat Loder, right, and her daughter Jodi are thrilled to receive a letter that ultimately leads them to the man who has their loved one's heart. (John Gaudi/CBC)

She described Buttle as not only a loving family man but someone who mentors young people and who has a huge circle of friends — all qualities that Loder says makes him a "a good man."

"From our side of it, his heart still beats strong to give life to Rob," Loder said, of her son.

Ever since the transplant, Buttle wanted to know about Jeff and his family. Both families agree the similarities between the men are "uncanny."

"The Loder family, and especially Jeff, grew up the same way as I grew up," Buttle said.

"It's nice to know that the heart came from a person that had the exact same lifestyle as I do."

This photo of Jodi Loder and her brother Jeff was taken at her prom, two months before his death in July 2016. (Submitted by Jodi Loder)

Buttle has been warned that his family has just inherited a massive family, Loder said.

"As Newfoundland and Labradorians, we always take people in under our wing. So Rob doesn't realize but he thinks he just became a part of a family of three — there's probably about 320."

'That heart's happy'

After meeting Buttle, Loder feels her son's heart has a purpose now keeping a good man alive. Her son's heart lives with joy, she said.

"If [Buttle] can drop a line in the water a few times a year or be around a group of people laughing and having fun, right, then that heart's happy," Loder said, referring to their shared love for fishing.

Loder hopes she inspires others to consider organ donation as a way to keep people like Buttle alive. In the face of going through such a dark period in life, there's a silver lining that Jeff's donated organs have been given to patients in need, she said.

"If you can, donating organs is not going to hurt you. It will help you.

"It won't change your grieving process, but it will give you a ray of hope."

Click listen above to hear the full interview with Pat Loder and Rob Buttle.


Produced by Ines Colabrese

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