Heart transplant patient Scott Rutherford wept as he was given the honour of dancing with his organ donor’s sister at her wedding 14 years after the life-saving surgery.
Scott, 28, was just 15 when he was given the heart of John Carter, who died tragically young at 33 from a brain tumour.
After meeting John’s family by chance years later at a service for heart recipients, they formed a special bond.
Scott was invited to John’s sister Julie’s wedding.
He said: “The first dance was to I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing by Aerosmith. Freda, John’s mum, came over to me and said it had actually been his first dance too, when he got married, so that made me even more emotional so I just stood crying.
“So then I danced with Freda. She took me on to the dance floor and we all shared a special moment, me, John’s sister and his mum.
“Just cuddling each other and swaying to the song and, you know, really feeling John present there, at that moment.
“They gave me life and I felt that it was my honour and my blessing to be able to take John along with me.
“They could put their hand on my chest and feel him beating. It was really, really, really, wonderful. Really lovely.”
John, a paint sprayer from Sunderland, married in 2004 and was ready to start a family when he died in 2008, just four weeks after doctors found a brain tumour. Freda has previously said her son did not know he was going to die, which had been a “blessing”.
She said: “He went into surgery saying, ‘I can’t die. I have too much to live for’. I never even got to say goodbye.”
Freda was against donating his organs until his sister Julie, a nurse, helped change her mind. Julie said to Freda: “Mum, if John needed some organ that would save his life, what would you do?”
Freda replied: “I would crawl on my hands and knees and beg them for it.” It is believed five people received John’s organs. The family were told his heart had gone to a 15-year-old called Scott.
Freda later started attending the service for organ recipients every year.
Scott, an actor from North Shields, decided to go to one of the services at the last minute, after being invited to sing and share his story.
Freda said when she opened the programme the name Scott jumped out and she was “gripped by this sense that it was him, he was in this room”.
She told helpers at the service she thought Scott was the recipient of her son’s heart. They asked him when his transplant was and realised Freda was right. Scott said: “We were brought together at the end of the service, once the church had cleared, and I remember the first thing she did was asked to feel the heartbeat.
“So, I opened my chest and put her bare hands on it and we just shared this really special, quiet moment together.”
They now meet regularly to spread the message about organ donation.
Scott said: “Ever since then we’ve got this bond.” They are helping keep John “alive” by “letting everyone know how incredible it is on both sides, as a donor yourself and recipient.
“You know it’s pretty incredible.”
He had his first major operation aged nine, and by 12 had endured 400 surgical procedures.
He thinks the day of the heart transplant was the day his life began.
Scott, pictured after his surgery, left, said: “I went from a blue boy who couldn’t brush my own teeth and couldn’t tie my own shoelaces, a boy who was dying essentially.”
As a teen he was “petrified” to fall asleep in case he never woke up. He said: “Now I’m just this vibrant, pink, happy-go-lucky lad, that’s still loving life and feeling thankful every day.”