Heart transplant unites families after Elkhart girl’s death


Pennsylvania recipient visits to share tears of gratitude

SOUTH BEND — Valerie Matthews has taken a painful stroll down County Road 108 in Elkhart every year on May 16 to the spot where her daughter was hit by a pickup truck.

It may be time to stop. For five years, she says, it's as if she's been calling out to her 12-year-old daughter, Da’jeianna Smith: “I’m waiting for your heart to walk with me.”

They took that walk this week. Da’jeianna’s transplanted heart now beats inside of 20-year-old Dalton Igoe of Altoona, Pa., who came to visit.

Not only that. On Wednesday, Valerie and Dalton paddled kayaks for the first time in their lives on a pond at St. Patrick’s County Park. And Dalton scaled halfway up a climbing wall at the Family Passport to Play event at the park, then descended, saying, “I guess I’m still not a height person.”

“I can’t believe you did that,” said his mom, Dawn Igoe, as she watched another first-ever event.

“Me neither,” he replied.

None of that would have been possible without Da’jeianna’s heart. Continue reading

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