'She has my daughter's heart'
ROSEBURG, Ore. -- On her 50th birthday, Rene Whitaker reunited with the woman who is alive today because of her daughter.
For her birthday, Rene's family clustered around a door to greet her, but the biggest surprise of all was waiting at the other side of the room.
It was an emotional scene, as Rene spotted Virginia Hansen, and the two exchanged a long hug.
The reason the two are so close: Virginia's heart isn't her original one, but that of someone who was very close to Rene. "She means a lot to me," Rene told KPIC News. "She has my daughter's heart. When my daughter passed away almost 16 years ago, Virginia got her heart.
Rene's 12-year-old daughter Serena was in a car accident in 1997, the same year Virginia was dying from heart complications.
"That was really hard, really hard to know a child had died and I was living at my old age," Virginia said.
Rene says her husband made the decision her daughter would become a donor.
Virginia has been living with Serena's heart for 16 years.
She says she wrote Rene a while after her surgery and they instantly connected.