In October 2017, Daniel Donnelly Jr. lost his 26-year-old daughter, Heather Donnelly, to a fatal car accident while on her way to a friend’s birthday party. At the time, Heather’s wedding was just three days away and Daniel was getting ready to walk his daughter down the aisle – but that day never came.
Not long after her death, she was a perfect match for eight people who were awaiting organ transplants in a last-ditch effort to stay alive. One of those eight perfect matches was a woman named Diana Donnarumma – who lived in Buffalo, NY, and had only been on the transplant list for one week.
The transplant surgery took eight hours and it resulted in Diana receiving Heather’s small intestine, as well as the right portion of her large intestine. The surgery was her last hope as her intestines were failing and her Dysautonomia was progressing. Luckily, the surgery went well and Diana was given new life.
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One year after the surgery, Diana Donnarumma was given an opportunity to reach out to Daniel Donnelly Jr. – which she did by writing a letter. He decided to accept the letter – which he didn’t have to – and they eventually spoke on the phone. Diana had said she cried for two days straight after their first phone call.
The two remained in touch as Diana began to spread her and Heather’s story through social media in an effort to encourage others to become organ donors. Not before long, Diana and Daniel ended up meeting for the first time in Illinois, where he was living at the time. Diana learned a lot about Heather that day.
Fast forward to August 13, 2021 – it’s Diana’s wedding day and she’s about to get married to 30-year-old Conlan Kreher. Knowing Heather passed away three days before her wedding, Diana wanted to make her wedding extra special – not just for her, but for Daniel, who never got to walk his daughter down the aisle.
She ended up asking Daniel if he would walk her halfway down the aisle – which he accepted. On that emotional day, Daniel walked Diana halfway down the aisle before handing her off to her biological father, Glen. It made for quite the emotional moment as everyone was overflowing with tears – and rightfully so.
Sign of Unity Makes for Special and Emotional Wedding Moment
“Before I walked down the aisle with Dan, I felt butterflies in my stomach. When he first saw me in my wedding dress he cried. Once I saw him crying, I started crying,” Diana said to Daily Mail at the time. “He said he was honored to walk me down the aisle and is so happy to have another daughter now.”
She went on to explain that she felt every emotion in the book walking down that aisle – including anxiety, excitement, sadness, and happiness. She also told Daniel before they walked out that Heather’s spirit was with them and she was ‘happier than ever.’ Daniel still struggles with her death, but this helped.
“I hope people can realize the power of organ donation. Without Heather’s decision, I would not be here today. Death is a tragedy but transplant is a light of beauty in the midst of that tragedy,” she said of organ donation. “”Transplant gave me the life that I never thought I would have. These decisions are vital.”
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She went on to urge others to ‘seriously think about’ organ donation and avoid having ‘your family decide in the moment when they are grieving.’ While Daniel doesn’t have his daughter to hug today, he’ll always know that his daughter’s death helped save eight other lives – a legacy that will live on forever!
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