Watch One Mother Meet the Woman Who Received Her Son’s Heart
“He was kind and caring and deeply loved his family and friends. No one had a bad thing to say about him.”
These are the words of Kelly Hartge, describing her brother Tim Blake. Kelly and her family were devastated when Tim of Catonsville, MD passed away unexpectedly in 2019, at the age of 41. While he struggled with addiction throughout his life, his family says it didn’t define him. He was a beautiful soul who gave much during his life, and that continued after his death, when he was able to save four lives by donating his kidneys, heart and liver.
Phyllis Weissblum of New Jersey was born with multiple congenital heart defects. Through various procedures, medications and even a pacemaker, she was able to live most of her life with little disruption, getting married and having a family of children and grandchildren. At the age of 72, however, her health took a downturn, and her heart started to fail. Eventually, the only way that she could go on living was with a transplanted heart.
Organ transplantation is one of the most medically complex procedures, and as such it can sometimes be challenging for patients to even get placed on the national transplant waiting list. Transplant surgeons are protective of the all-too-rare resource that is donated organs and will only put someone on the transplant waiting list if they feel the patient is both sick enough to need a new organ, and simultaneously healthy enough to survive the difficult procedure. It’s a somewhat coincidental, but in many ways necessary, paradox. As patients get older, surgeons might be less inclined to list them for a transplant at all. Luckily for Phyllis, she found a surgeon at NYU Langone Health who was willing to take a chance and placed her on the waiting list for a new heart.
After Tim Blake passed away in November 2019, he was a match for Phyllis, and she received Tim’s heart and remains well to this day.
A year after receiving her transplant, Phyllis mustered up the courage to write a letter to her donor family, who was anonymous at the time. The Blakes – Tim’s parents Jim and Carmen and sisters Kelly and Chrissy- received it and responded with a letter of their own as they could not have been happier to hear from Phyllis.
“It was love at first sight. They were so warm and excited. I didn’t know how they would feel about a 72-year-old person receiving a young heart, but they were so thrilled that Tim was able to do this for me,” said Phyllis.
The Blakes meeting the Weissblums in Florida.
The family agreed to meet with Phyllis: first, in a Zoom call in (as this was the height of the COVID-19 pandemic), and then in person. By happenstance, both families were vacationing in Florida in February 2023 and realized that they were only 30 minutes away from each other for one night. They agreed to meet up in person for the first time, and this is when the true magic happened.
“We were like the Griswolds’ rolling up,” said Kelly. A van full of Blake family members pulled into the suburban Florida home of Phyllis’ friends, and the festivities began. Tears were shed, hugs were given and memories of the hero who made this all happen, Tim, were shared. A stethoscope was brought out so that the family could listen to Tim’s heartbeat in Phyllis’ chest. A lifelong bond was formed between two groups of people who otherwise may never have come across each other. And, most importantly, a young man was honored and celebrated for the generous gifts he gave which prolonged multiple lives.
Carmen and Phyllis shared the most special connection. Both mothers hit it off immediately and remain great friends, forever linked by the heart which kept Carmen’s son alive and continues to beat in Phyllis’ chest.
“We were supposed to only meet for a few minutes; well, a few minutes turned into 3 hours,” said Phyllis. “It was like we knew each other forever.”
“Knowing Phyllis, she will always be a part of our family,” said Carmen.
This Mother’s Day, Infinite Legacy honors mothers everywhere, especially those who are mourning a loss. Carmen and Phyllis’ story reminds us that family and love can always be found, sometimes when you least expect them to be and that you never know when you will be given the opportunity to change someone’s life.
With more than 100,000 people in the United States waiting for a lifesaving transplant, 4,000 of those in Maryland and the Metro DC area, heroes like Tim are needed more than ever. Signing up as an organ donor is one of the easiest things to do and can have an impact greater than you can ever imagine. One person can save eight lives and enhance over 75 lives as an organ and tissue donor.
Register as a donor and learn more about saving lives through organ, eye and tissue donation at infinitelegacy.org.
Wishing peace and happiness to all mothers this Mother’s Day.