Dad Bonds with Man Who Received His Son’s Donor Heart: “We Will Be Friends for Life”

I cannot imagine losing one of my children. It’s something I can’t talk about or even think about, because just entertaining the possibility in the darkest crevice of my mind is more grief than I can bear.

Rick Prashaw knows what it’s like to lose a child. His son, Adam, died of a seizure when he was only 22. But, as agonizing as losing Adam was, the one easy choice was the decision to donate his organs.

Image source: Rick Prashaw

Adam had been a registered organ donor since he received his driver’s license at 16. When he first asked his parents about that little box on the application meant, his mom explained the process of how other people could benefit from his organs should he be killed in an accident. Adam automatically said of course he would do that to help other people live.

“That was so him, his generous spirit,” Prashaw tells Babble.

Image source: Rick Prashaw

Ontario law dictates that families of registered organ donors must still give permission, and, of course there was no question as to whether the Prashaw family would consent to have Adam’s heart, liver, and kidneys donated.

“Knowing Adam’s wishes made that the easiest decision in a horrible weekend,” says Prashaw. Adam suffered from seizures throughout his life and had just had his second brain surgery two months before a seizure took his life.

Ontario law also protects the privacy of organ donors but encourages recipients to write anonymous letters of gratitude. Three weeks after the transplant, John Dickhout, the recipient of Adam’s heart, wrote a letter that Prashaw describes as “overflowing with gratitude, joy, and a promise to live his life to the fullest, for himself and his donor.”

Dickhout, who had suffered a heart attack in his early 50s, was so weak that he had difficulty walking up a flight of stairs. The gift of Adam’s heart gave him a new lease on life.

Adam’s parents responded to Dickhout’s letter, with Trillium Gift of Life Network fully reviewing the correspondence to maintain privacy. However, there were a few vague clues in their correspondence that, along with the date of Adam’s death, allowed Dickhout to learn the identify of the young man who had given him a life-saving gift.

Respecting the right to Adam’s family’s privacy, Dickhout created a Facebook profile called “Heart Recipient” and sent Prashaw a friend request.

Prashaw and Dickhout met in person about three months later.

organ donation
Image source: Rick Prashaw

“His heart was racing so fast,” recalls Prashaw. “I told him [John] to tell it to slow down because my kid had lived life in the fast lane.” When asked if he planned to keep in contact with the Dickhout, Prashaw said, “I expect we will be friends for life.”

So far, this has remained true.

Since receiving his new heart, Dickhout has fully embraced life. He’s turned his passion for acting into a reality and is now doing commercials and appearing in other television roles. He also committed to running a 10K marathon in Adam’s honor — where Prashaw cheered him on.

We asked Prashaw what Adam would have had to say about Dickhout running the race with his heart, he said:

“Well actually, Adam ran with John. By that, I mean more than his heart ran with John. I told John before the race that Adam would run with him. That’s my faith and intuitive sense of knowing Adam is in a good place and very connected to us and all that has happened.”

While this is an incredible story in itself, there is much more to know about Adam Prashaw.

Although his heart went to a man, his liver and kidneys went to female recipients. This is significant to because Adam was born Rebecca Danielle Adam Prashaw. His parents were absolutely sure they were having a boy and got the surprise of their life when the doctor exclaimed, “It’s a girl!” upon delivery. They’d been referring to her as Adam for nearly nine months and decided to go ahead and use the name.

adam prashaw
Image source: Rick Prashaw

Over time, Rebecca came to realize the boy she was and chose to make her transition public. Adam has always had the full support and love of his family and they continue to support and embrace the man who has his heart in the same way.

“Given Adam’s story, his transition, I remember crying when I first learned from Trillium that while his kidneys and liver went to women, his heart went to a man,” Prashaw tells Babble.

Adam was a gift to his family during his time on Earth and Dickhout is an unexpected, albeit bittersweet gift to them as well. The whole experience has inspired Prashaw to write a book, Soar, Adam, Soar, which will be published this fall.

Adam Prashaw was an incredible man who gave an incredible gift to another incredible man. I’m sure we can all agree on that one.

h/t: CTV News 

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