KANSAS CITY, KS (KCTV) -- On June 10, 2018, Amanda Reynolds’ life changed forever. Her husband, David, was shot and killed in a road rage attack in Joplin, Mo. He was 27 years old.
Amanda lost the love of her life, and her four girls lost their father.
“He wasn’t perfect, but being a father is something that he shined in,” said Amanda. “It was what God created him for.”
Even in her grief, Amanda thought of others. While David’s life was gone, his organs were given to several other people—saving or improving their lives.
A year later, Amanda learned who they were.
“They were all older men,” said Amanda. She thought David would have loved that. “He had a soft spot for the old. Loved to listen to their stories.”
The man who now as David’s heart is also named David. David Shell, “Spider” as he’s known, is 69 years old. David’s death gave Spider new life. At the time of the transplant, Spider had no idea who his donor was.
“That’s when your mind says what did these poor people go through to get me to this position,” said Spider.
A year later, as soon as transplant regulations allowed, Spider and his wife, Kris, wrote a letter to his donor’s family. Amanda retuned a letter and told them about her husband.
The letters led to calls. Calls led to a face-to-face meeting, then another meeting. And now, they consider themselves family.
They’ve learned that Spider and Dave are a lot alike.
“David liked to hunt. David liked to fish. David like to play softball,” said Spider. Just like he does. “The man upstairs knew what he was doing.”
Dr. Andrew Sauer, a cardiologist with The University of Kansas Health System, performed the transplant. He said it is one of the most rewarding types of surgeries of his career.
"You take someone with ventricular tachycardia, like Spider, I mean they're going to die if they don’t get a new heart. So watching him get 10-15 more years of life...that's magical,” he explained.
Amanda says having David’s heart beating in Spider, and the bond that’s been created between families, helps keep him close.
“Every time one of my kids walks across the stage, he’s still there. Every time they’re going to get walked down the aisle, or a father daughter dance, or have a baby—he’s still there,” said Amanda.
The families say they’ve learned a valuable lesson: that often in our darkest times, it might be a stranger who helps us survive.