Bride 'overcome with emotion' on wedding day by man who received her son's heart
Jacob Kilby lets Becky Turney listen to her son's heart. (Facebook/ Love Adventured)
Published Tuesday, July 11, 2017 2:11PM EDT
An Alaska woman received the best wedding gift ever, “hands down,” when the young man who received her deceased son’s heart surprised her on her wedding day.
Becky Turney had never met Jacob Kilby, the man who received the heart of her son Triston, who died suddenly in the fall of 2015. But that meeting finally happened this past weekend, and their wedding photographer captured the moment.
Becky’s then-fiancé, Kelly Turney, arranged the surprise, secretly inviting Jacob to the nuptials so that a little part of Triston could be there for their special day.
“Kelly wanted to surprise Becky for the wedding,” Jacob told CTVNews.ca by telephone from Palmer, Alaska. “He offered to send me a ticket so I could fly up for the wedding. I was super excited to do it.”
So the 21-year-old flew from his home in San Diego, Calif. to Palmer. He stayed out of sight while waiting for the ceremony to begin, keeping his head down as he took his seat.
After the bride walked the aisle, the groom turned to the guests, telling them that while Triston couldn’t be there, he was there with them “in spirit” and then invited Jacob to come up and meet Becky.
The wedding photographers, Love Adventured, snapped pictures as two shared a long hug, bringing Becky and most of the wedding party to tears.
Later, as the reception got underway, Jacob brought out a stethoscope he had packed along in his suitcase and asked Becky if she wanted to listen to his heart. The wedding photographer caught the moment as Becky’s eyes filled with tears while she listened to her son’s heart beating inside Jacob’s chest.
“Things got super emotional,” he said. “...She was just so excited. It was… it was just unexplainable. She was so overcome with emotion.”
Becky later wrote on her Facebook page that Jacob’s presence at the wedding was “hands down the best gift” and the “most amazing surprise ever!”
The moment was pretty terrific for Jacob too, since without Triston’s heart, he might not have been there at all to witness the moment.
Jacob was born with a genetic defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome. He underwent three surgeries in his first weeks of life but doctors could not repair his heart. So at the age of two, he received his first heart transplant.
By his senior year of high school, though, his body began to reject the organ. He developed a condition called cardiac allograft vasculopathy, or CAV, which caused the arteries in his heart to begin to collapse.
Doctors inserted stents into his arteries and placed him back on a heart transplant waiting list.
When Jacob experienced a heart attack while surfing near his California home not long after, his need for a new heart became urgent. That wait ended just 45 days later when Triston died and Jacob was selected to receive his heart.
“I couldn’t have received a better heart,” Jacob said. “I’ve had zero complications. I'm back to exercise, back to school, back to surfing.”
Jacob’s aunt encouraged him to contact the organ donor agency and ask if the family was interested in making a connection. He was reticent to reach out at first but the Turneys wanted to connect, too. They exchanged letters and cards and “friended” each other on Facebook, but they had never met until this past weekend.
Now, Kilby says he’s so glad he reached out when he did because it led to such an “awesome” meeting.
“I now have a family here,” he said.
With the photos spreading around the internet, Kilby’s phone has been ringing non-stop and he hasn’t yet had a lot of time to explore Alaska.
But he says he doesn’t mind since he’s always happy to talk about organ donation. He also wants to encourage other organ donors and recipients to try to connect if they can.
“If you haven’t reached out to a donor, take that chance,” he said. “Something really good could come out of it.’