INSIDE EDITION - Some California parents had the chance to hear their daughter’s heartbeat once again, two decades after she died in a tragic accident.
Shirley and Daniel Mason of Orange were able to listen to the heartbeat of their late daughter after Inger Jessen, formerly of Huntington Beach, received it in an organ transplant 20 years ago.
There wasn't a dry eye in the room when the Masons held a stethoscope against Jessen’s chest, and passed around photos of Nicole “Nikki” Jessen, who was just 18 when she died in a car accident.
“Knowing that you get to meet somebody that has her heart today, that makes me feel wonderful,” Shirley told KTLA. “I can feel like I’m hugging my baby again."
Jessen, who received the transplant in her 50s, said she has wanted to thank the couple for their generous gift for a long time.
“I wanted for 20 years to meet them and tell them how strong I was, and my heart is still going very strong,” she said.
Before she received the transplant, KTLA reported, she barely had the stamina to walk across the room. Jessen was reportedly diagnosed with cardio sclerosis at 39 years old, a hereditary heart disease that causes plaque buildup around the coronary arteries. She's had several heart surgeries over the years until doctors said her only option would be a transplant.
Two years after the transplant, in 1999, she won a gold medal in swimming at the Transplant Olympics held in Budapest.
“My heart is absolutely the best part of me,” Jessen said.
Jessen was just one of the four lives saved after the Masons made the difficult decision to donate their daughter’s organs.
“I was so hurt that I would never be able to watch her get married, or watch her have kids or anything,” her dad, Daniel, said.” It’s unbelievable that you would say goodbye to somebody and their heart 20 years later would be beating on in someone else. I’m overwhelmed to think about it.”