CHICAGO (CBS) — Four years ago, a tragic accident claimed the life of a young woman from Rolling Meadows.
Kate Leekley was just 20-years-old when the motorcycle she was riding was hit by a drunk driver. She died four days after the accident and, through organ donation, saved the life of another young woman who met Kate’s mom for the first time Saturday.
Jennifer Leekley said she could hardly believe she was about to meet Alyssa Sandeen — the woman her daughter’s heart saved.
The emotional meeting took more than four years to arrange, but Sandeen thought of the perfect gift for Leekley.
She recorded her heartbeat and then inserted it into a teddy bear, telling Leekley, “you can keep that with you, so you can hear it whenever you want.”
“I don’t want to let it [the teddy bear] go. Just to hear her heartbeat — I can’t explain it,” Leekley said.
For years, Leekley wasn’t sure she could handle meeting her daughter’s heart recipient, but earlier this year, she and Alyssa started communicating.
“If Kate was still here, these two would be like two peas in a pod from everything I found out. Both love the outdoors, both love country, both love animals,” Leekley said. “It’s just amazing knowing the fact of her heart is going to someone who is going to enjoy everything she enjoyed.”
But she admits, at times, it’s bittersweet, saying, “I look at one portion of why did it have to be my daughter. But then I look at her and her parents — how my daughter was a hero. Saved her, saved her parents and her brother and sisters from the grief that we’ve endured.”
Kate’s mother says her daughter’s organs saved the lives of four people, including Sandeen.
Both families will walk in honor of Kate in the Mother’s Against Drunk Drivers walk at Independence Grove in Libertyville Sunday.