MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

December 28, 2013

Transplant creates ‘new family’

Heart recipient meets donor’s mother

By Travis Sloat
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Louise Tibbs wasted little time crossing the room to throw her arms around Jim Murrell on Saturday afternoon.

With tears in her eyes and her head buried in his chest, she seemed to be speaking to two people when she addressed Murrell.

“I’m so glad to finally hug you,” she said.

Murrell, who hails from Munford, Ala., is the recipient of a heart donated by Tibbs’ son, Richard “Dickie” Lowe, 50, who was killed while walking down U.S. 69 in May.

After a few months of telephone calls and letters, Murrell and his wife, Jennifer; his daughter, Julianna; and his son, Cameron, decided to come to Muskogee to meet Tibbs on Monday. After figuring out travel times and itinerary, they realized they could show up Saturday and surprise her at work.

Murrell said it didn’t matter how long he had to wait, he knew all along the trip would happen.

“We couldn’t wait to come meet you,” Murrell told Tibbs.

Tibbs said she had spent a great deal of time contemplating what she’d say to Murrell.

“I was so scared and so nervous that I wouldn’t know what to say,” Tibbs said. “I’m so glad y’all are here. I’ve heard from two of the others (who received transplants) so far. I don’t think people realize it’s (organ donation) such a good thing. Seeing y’all helps me a whole lot with what happened.”

Tibbs also said that through the organ donation process, it feels as though she’s gained new family members.

“I’m very glad I’ve got the new family,” she said.

While Murrell and Tibbs were embracing, Jennifer Murrell patted her husband’s chest and offered a very poignant sentiment.

“I wondered if it’ll skip a beat when it recognizes its momma,” she said.

Murrell was born with a condition called transposition of the great vessels. He was the youngest child in Alabama at that point to have open heart surgery, and was given a 10 percent chance of survival, he said. For the next 32 years, he lived a normal life. But, in 2006, the repairs made to his heart in infancy started wearing off.

“After several heart caths and all that, they came out and said the only option was a heart transplant,” Murrell said. “Every time they evaluated me for one, I was on the edge of needing one and not needing one. In May of this year they put me on the list for a donor heart and said that if I didn’t get one in a few weeks, it wouldn’t be good.”

Then, on May 22, Murrell said a doctor pulled his curtain back and said, “It’s on the way from Oklahoma.”

Murrell told Tibbs the heart was a perfect match in more ways than he could explain.

“There are certain things that have to match,” he said. “Blood types, tissue types.

“But even things that didn’t have to match matched with us, like antibodies. The doctors said it’s an unbelievable match. I don’t know how to explain that.”

Tibbs said seeing Murrell as she walked into the room cemented something she felt was like a “dream.”

“I felt so much joy and happiness,” Tibbs said. “I was relieved it wasn’t a dream. There won’t be closure for us until we find out more details about his (Lowe’s) death, but this is just such a good experience.”

Reach Travis Sloat at (918) 684-2908 or tsloat@muskogeephoenix.com.

What to do

If you are interested in becoming an organ donor, go to www.organdonor.gov for information or to register as an organ donor.