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Video: Teen girl’s heart gives mom a second chance

  1. Transcript of: Teen girl’s heart gives mom a second chance

    MEREDITH VIEIRA, co-host: Back at 8:09 with Taylor 's gift. Thirteen-year-old Taylor Storch died in a tragic skiing accident back in March, but her mother vowed to hear the sound of her daughter's heart again after deciding to donate Taylor 's organs. In a moment we're going to reunite Taylor 's parents with the mother of two who received their daughter's heart . But first, NBC 's Lee Cowan has their touching story.

    LEE COWAN reporting: The sound of life. How often do we really listen? Patricia Winters does, almost every day. That comforting rhythm is all because of what happened to a 13-year-old she never met, Taylor Storch , on the last day of a family ski vacation on the very last run.

    Mr. TODD STORCH: I saw Taylor lose her balance a little bit. It didn't take me but a very quick second to realize that she was hurt.

    COWAN: Taylor crashed and never got up. Doctors tried, but nothing. But in so many ways, that tragic end was another beginning.

    Ms. TARA STORCH (Mother Who Donated Teenage Daughter's Heart): There's such a powerful message behind what happened after she died.

    COWAN: Taylor 's parents, Tara and Todd , decided to donate their daughter's organs. Five strangers are alive today because of that gift.

    Ms. STORCH: She was such a giving, loving person, and so this is just really what she would have wanted. She just would continue to give.

    COWAN: Taylor gave her kidneys, eyes, liver, pancreas and heart . But it was that that her mother had such a hard time letting go. As vital as it was to someone else, she vowed to hear her daughter's heart again.

    Ms. STORCH: Since we lost Taylor , I have been wanting to have that connection because she and I were extremely close and I wanted to know that she was still there.

    COWAN: Taylor 's heart made quite a journey, all the way from the mountains of Colorado here to the deserts of Arizona . It arrived in the middle of the night to a recipient who was fast running out of time .

    Ms. PATRICIA WINTERS (Woman Who Received Teenage Girl's Heart): Looking back on it now, I realize just how sick I was.

    COWAN: And that brings us back to Patricia , a mother with a broken heart of a different kind. Hers was failing. She was rushed into surgery that night and awoke with a strange new feeling.

    Ms. WINTERS: When I woke up, I kept saying, 'Who is she? Who is she?' And then...

    COWAN: You knew right away it was a girl?

    Ms. WINTERS: Yes. It was very bizarre to me.

    COWAN: Organ donors are confidential. No one could tell her. But Patricia 's husband thought he knew. He'd found news reports of Taylor 's accident, complete with pictures, even YouTube clips, and surmised that the heart must be hers.

    Ms. WINTERS: At night, if I couldn't sleep, I would open up my laptop and then I would look, and it was pretty dramatic, very dramatic.

    COWAN: But nothing would be complete until the two families met, and finally, six months after Taylor 's accident, they did. It was the coming together of something so terrible and something so beautiful that words failed. The only sound that mattered, though, was the sound that Taylor 's mother was so desperate to hear, Taylor 's, and there it was.

    Ms. WINTERS: You can hear it?

    Ms. STORCH: Yeah.

    Ms. WINTERS: Yeah.

    COWAN: Two lives, two families, bound by one heart and one amazing gift.

    Ms. STORCH: She's strong.

    COWAN: For TODAY, Lee Cowan, NBC News, Phoenix.

    VIEIRA: Tara and Todd Storch are here along with Patricia Winters , and Taylor , as well, is here. Because without her, Patricia , you would not have gotten a second chance at life.

    Ms. WINTERS: Right.

    VIEIRA: Is there a day that goes by that you don't think about that little girl ?

    Ms. WINTERS: Not a moment. No, not at all. It's because I'm here and I'm here raising my boys. I'm alive because of her.

    VIEIRA: Well, you made the decision, Todd and Tara , in the hospital that day in March -- your daughter had been declared brain dead and the hospital came to you, Todd ...

    Mr. STORCH: Yeah.

    VIEIRA: ...and said she'd be a great candidate to be a donor, and you -- what amazed me is you said, without even discussing it with your wife, 'Yes. We should do this.' What made you so sure that it was the right thing to do?

    Mr. STORCH: It was a very easy choice. Taylor was a giving, wonderful person, and I looked at Tara and we knew exactly -- we knew exactly that's what Taylor would do. She was so giving, and that choice was very, very easy.

    VIEIRA: Meanwhile, at that point, Patricia , you're at home in Arizona , you're very sick.

    Ms. WINTERS: Mm-hmm.

    VIEIRA: Can barely get out of bed on a daily basis to take care of your two little boys .

    Ms. WINTERS: Right.

    VIEIRA: Had been a candidate twice before for a heart transplant , but both of those had fallen through. This time you get the call, you go.

    Ms. WINTERS: Mm-hmm.

    VIEIRA: It's a good match. You wake up and, as you said to Lee , you knew immediately it was the heart of a female.

    Ms. WINTERS: Mm-hmm.

    VIEIRA: You found out it was a teenager, but how did you trace it to the Storch family and find out that it was this little girl 's heart ?

    Ms. WINTERS: Actually, my husband did while I was in surgery. A friend of his had sent over the article from Colorado , their news bulletin stating that a 13-year-old girl had died in a ski accident and a 39-year-old Arizona woman received her heart . So my husband's friend...

    VIEIRA: Putting two and two together.

    Ms. WINTERS: Exactly.

    VIEIRA: And then when you saw that child's face and made the -- what was that like for you?

    Ms. WINTERS: I saw her face within 24 hours of my transplant, and when my husband showed me the laptop, I just told him that he needed to put it away. I was not ready to look at her picture. Picture equals, you know, reality. So it was just too much for me at the time. It wasn't until I was alone and could really just look at the pictures myself, so.

    VIEIRA: So how did you all end up reuniting here, Tara ? How did that come about?

    Ms. STORCH: We had a neighbor who knew that from the very beginning I wanted to connect with her heart and it was just a pull that I needed. I needed that connection. And a neighbor of mine went on the Internet and searched and searched and searched and found an article written about someone in Arizona who had received a heart transplant and found someone that had commented on an online article, and she responded and it just happened to be Patricia 's connection.

    VIEIRA: And there was a moment when you -- when you all met where the two of you were sitting on a couch, two moms, and you shared something very touching. You leaned your head onto Patricia 's chest.

    Ms. STORCH: I did. Probably that was the most precious.

    VIEIRA: Tell me about that.

    Ms. STORCH: That was the most precious time I had with her because Todd and her husband, Joe , had gone to get something to eat, and so Patricia and I were together alone and I asked her, I said, 'Can I just lay my head on your chest and listen?' Because Taylor and I were very, very close and I would lay in bed with her and just snuggle with her. And so I got to lay my head on her chest and hear her, and what was magical about that is while I was doing that, her heart had this huge kick and then Patricia goes, 'Did you hear that?' And I said, 'Yes, I did.' And then it did it again, this huge kick. And I looked at Patricia and she said, 'I was praying while you were laying on my chest that Taylor would give you a sign that she was here.' And she did, and I will never forget that. It was truly the gift of Taylor letting me know that she's here.

    VIEIRA: And Taylor continues to give her gift through this organization, the foundation you have started, Todd , taylorsgift.org. What have you learned about organ donations in your own state of Texas and nationwide, and what is the message you're trying to get out?

    Mr. STORCH: The message is that -- the message is easy. This is a simple choice. Most people want to become organ donors and they're not quite sure how to become, and we're trying to make that very, very easy for them with one place to do that. All the states are listed. What I've learned, ultimately, is that, you know, there's a lot of new things that are happening with the different databases, and we want to just make one single place to make it easy for everyone to become an organ donor because the statistics show that most everybody wants to.

TODAY
Tara Storch, left, is overcome with emotion as she hears the donated heart of her late daughter beat inside donee Patricia Winters, as her husband Todd, right, looks on.
By
TODAY contributor
updated 10/1/2010 10:09:49 AM ET 2010-10-01T14:09:49

Tara Storch’s heart broke when she lost her daughter to injuries in a skiing accident: Thirteen-year-old Taylor was not only her child, but her best friend. But in an emotion-charged moment, she got to hear Taylor’s heart beat once again, six months later — in the chest of a grateful woman who gained her own life back as a result.

TODAY told the poignant story of a daughter lost and lives saved as Meredith Vieira sat with Tara, her husband, Todd, and heart recipient Patricia Winters live on Friday. Their hands clasped together, the trio described their fateful meeting.

An easy choice
Tragedy struck the Storches in March when, on the last run on the last day of a family skiing vacation at Beaver Creek Resort in Colorado, Taylor tumbled backward and hit a tree. Within a day, doctors delivered shattering news: Taylor was brain dead.

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When doctors asked them whether Taylor’s organs could be donated, the Storches didn’t waste a moment in assenting. “Taylor was a giving, wonderful person, and I looked at Tara, and we knew exactly that’s what Taylor would do,” Todd told Vieira. “She was so giving, and that choice was very, very easy.”

Meanwhile, Patricia Winters was feeling like she was on her last legs. She had dealt with cardiomyopathy for nearly five years, a condition that degenerated to the point that she was sleeping 18 hours a day and virtually unable to attend to her two young sons. “I felt like I wasn’t going to last too long,” Winters, of Arizona, said.

Through organ donation, Winters was given Taylor Storch’s heart in a transplant surgery performed in Tucson. And though the donation was confidential, circumstances conspired in such a way that within 24 hours, Winters knew whose heart she had. “A friend of [husband Joe] had sent over the article from Colorado stating that a 13-year-old girl had died in a ski accident and a 39-year-old Arizona woman received her heart, so I put two and two together.”

TODAY
From left, Todd Storch, Patricia Winters and Tara Storch appeared on TODAY Friday.

Back in Texas, Tara Storch longed to reconnect with her late daughter, even if only through the beating of her heart. She told Vieira a neighbor “went on the Internet and searched and searched and searched and found an article about someone in Arizona who received a heart transplant.” They contacted an acquaintance of Winters who had made an online comment in an article about Winters, and the two families were on the road toward meeting.

A ‘huge kick’
In September, six months after Taylor’s death, the Storches finally met Winters. The trio formed a circle and hugged wordlessly for nearly a minute. When the men left the room, Tara made a request to Patricia.

Video: Teen girl’s heart gives mom a second chance (on this page)

“I asked her, ‘Can I just lay my head on your chest and listen?’ Taylor and I were very, very close and I would lie in bed with her and just snuggle with her,” she told Vieira.

“So I got to lay my head on her chest. What was magical was while I was doing that, her heart just had this huge kick. Then Patricia said, ‘Did you hear that?’ And I said, “Yes, I did.’

“Then it did it again — this huge kick. I looked at Patricia and she said, ‘I was praying while you were lying on my chest that Taylor would give you a sign that she was here.’ And she did. I will never forget that. It was truly the gift of Taylor letting me know she was here.”

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Taylor not only saved Patricia’s life, but the lives of four others with her donated organs. And her parents have become staunch proponents of organ donation — although some 90 percent of Americans say they would donate organs, only 30 percent know how to do so. Thus the family started the website TaylorsGift.org to help other families donate as they did on behalf of their daughter.

“This is a simple choice,” Todd Storch told Vieira. “Most people want to become donors and they’re not sure how to, and we’re trying to make that very, very easy for them, with one place to do that. All the states are listed. We want to have one simple place to make it easy for everyone to become an organ donor.”

As for Winters, she told Vieira that “not a moment” goes by when she doesn’t think of Taylor’s gift to her.

“If I’m here, and I’m here raising my boys, I’m alive because of her,” she said.

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