The donor family and the recipient learned each other’s identities through independent research
Baseball legend Rod Carew was saved by a heart donation from a former NFL player. Carew, who suffered a heart attack on a golf course in 2015, was given a mechanical heart device, but a year later it was clear that the 69-year-old was in need of a new human heart. One month later, the tragic circumstances surrounding a young NFL player’s death would provide Carew’s salvation.
Konrad Reuland, who played for the Jets and the Ravens, was unsigned and working to ensure that he would carry on his career with a new team the following year. The 29-year-old was on a treadmill when he suffered an incapacitating headache. After seeing specialists, he underwent brain surgery several weeks later, but never regained consciousness from the procedure.
Reuland was an organ donor, so prior to his death, doctors harvested many of his organs, including his heart, which was a match for Rod Carew.
Given the specific circumstances surrounding both the donor and the recipient, both parties were soon able to piece together the other half of the puzzle, despite not having been informed of each’s identities. Eventually, the evidence was suggestive enough that Reuland’s mother contacted Carew’s family and confirmed their suspicions.
On March 2 of this year, Reuland’s mother met with Rod Carew, and in a touching moment, listened to her son’s heart beat inside the chest of the man he saved.
“I will take care of it, this heart, because I've been given a second chance," said Carew.
Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Reuland offered a profound look at her new relationship with the baseball Hall of Famer, stating, "I told them when they came here, and I strongly believe this, that they are now a part of our family. My son's heart is beating in your chest."