The mother, fiancée and son of a man who died in a car crash three years ago met the man whose life was saved by his heart donation, sharing an emotional meeting with the recipient Sunday in Pasadena.
In 2015, 29-year-old Herbert Alberts died tragically in an accident and donated his heart, according to OneLegacy, a nonprofit that advocates life-saving transplants throughout Southern California.
Three years later, his face will be featured alongside 43 others on a Rose Parade float honoring those who make such life-saving donations. Just two days before the 130th annual event, Alberts' family met the man who received his heart — a transplant the recipient said kept him from dying of recurrent heart problems he's suffered since birth.
Jeff Eble, the Florida resident who received Alberts' heart, came with loved ones to the Pasadena Hilton Hotel to meet those closest to his donor.
Listening through a stethoscope, Genny Alberts cried and pressed her face against Eble's chest as she heard the beats of her son's heart for the first time since he died.
"I was happy to hear him," she said. "It gives me a very special feeling to know that he's there."
The woman set to marry Alberts before his sudden death, Evelyn Arana, came with their 2-year-old son, who was born through in vitro fertilization after Alberts passed.
"It’s incredible. Never would I have thought I would be hearing his heart again," Arana said. "It’s a mix of emotions, kind of hard to describe. But it’s amazing."
Sunday's meeting between the two families is a rare occurrence, according to OneLegacy, which estimates only 4 percent of organ recipients meet the families of their donors.
The nonprofit estimates 116,000 people are currently waiting to receive a life-saving transplant. Named "Rhythm of the Heart," the Donate Life float honoring donors during the Rose Parade is intended to help Americans learn about the need for life-saving transplants.
Eighteen recipients of such transplants will be riding the float and another eight will be walking alongside it. There will also be 3,500 individual roses placed onto the float dedicated to those whose lives have been impacted by organ, eye or tissue donations.