Local woman gets surprise visit on Thanksgiving, from man who’s now living with her late son’s heart

Local woman gets surprise visit on Thanksgiving, from man who’s now living with her late son’s heart

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - It was a Thanksgiving unlike any other for one woman named Kim Neal in Maringouin.

Her son, David John Neal, was tragically shot and killed in New Roads back in January of 2019.

But through his death, he gave new life to 5 others.

Kim Neal and her son David
Kim Neal and her son David (Source: WAFB)

“My son and I were really, really close and it has been hard and emotional,” said Kim Neal, mother of David Neal.

David Neal was shot on January 19, 2019, and he died just days later. But through the tragedy, came hope for so many people.

“I donated his heart, his kidneys, his liver,” said Neal.

One of the people on the receiving end of David’s organs was Edward Cartwright of Nashville.

“He (Edward) had high blood pressure at his teenage years, and you know how all teenagers do, they don’t take their medicine. So, when he got in his late twenties he had to get stints put in. And from the stints, he had to get a defibrillator put in, in his thirties,” said Katrina Cartwright, Edward’s wife.

Edward’s heart kept failing, and it was only functioned at around 15 to 20%. He and his wife Katrina were placed on a heart transplant list.

Then one day, came the news they had been waiting for.

“I said (to the doctors) what’s going on? Like, I’m excited now, I’m trying to figure out what’s going on. They’re like, are you ready, because we got you a new heart,” said Katrina Cartwright.

Edward Cartwright during heart transplant surgery
Edward Cartwright during heart transplant surgery (Source: WAFB)

The doctors performed a successful heart transplant on Edward.

With the heart, of Kim Neal’s son.

“Now he (Edward) can get to see his kids graduate high school, he can see the kids graduate. We can get grandkids, because we don’t have grandkids yet, we can’t wait to see those,” said Katrina.

Through the organ donation process, Kim Neal became close with every person who received her son’s organs, and Especially Edward.

And this Thanksgiving, the Cartwrights made it a priority to drive all the way down to Maringouin from Nashville, to meet Neal in person and thank her.

And this Thanksgiving, the Cartwrights made it a priority to drive all the way down to Maringouin from Nashville, to meet Neal in person and thank her.
And this Thanksgiving, the Cartwrights made it a priority to drive all the way down to Maringouin from Nashville, to meet Neal in person and thank her. (Source: WAFB)

“He (Edward) calls me mom and I call him son, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. God has truly blessed me,” said Neal.

Neal’s son’s tragic death, not the end of his story, but the start of five new beginnings.

Neal's son's tragic death, not the end of his story, but the start of five new beginnings.
Neal's son's tragic death, not the end of his story, but the start of five new beginnings. (Source: WAFB)

“To me, I couldn’t just lay him to rest. To me, I had to continue doing what he (David) was doing all along, which was giving. And to give an organ and to give a life, and to sustain life to others, that means a lot. It hurts that my son is not here, and I grieve for my son. But I am blessed that I could not have chosen anyone better than Edward and all of the other recipients. This is like made me whole,” said Neal.

The two families are planning a cruise together in 2021 when the pandemic is over, and also plan on spending a lot more holidays together for years to come.
The two families are planning a cruise together in 2021 when the pandemic is over, and also plan on spending a lot more holidays together for years to come. (Source: WAFB)

The two families are planning a cruise together in 2021 when the pandemic is over, and also plan on spending a lot more holidays together for years to come.

The following information is from Vivid Communications:

During Thanksgiving season, we are reminded to give thanks and count our blessings. Kim Neal is reminded every day that her only child’s death gives five people the blessing of a second chance at life. Her Thanksgiving dinner table in Maringouin, La. will look a little different at noon this Thursday with the addition of her son’s heart recipient from Tennessee: Edward Cartwright and his wife, Katrina.

“God chose the right person for my son’s heart. They have a lot of the same personality: love and a heart of giving,” said Neal.

Neal believes it was David’s choice to say yes to organ donation, God’s choice to call him and her decision to say it was time to do what David did best: give to others from the kindness in his heart. The act of organ donation manifested into a familial relationship that Neal prayed for with her and Cartwright, plus the other recipients: kidney recipient from Metairie, David; other kidney recipient, Susan; and Shreveport recipient, Candy.

Cartwright wrote Neil through Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency, and she remembers talking with Cartwright for hours the evening after she received the letter. They continue to talk everyday as a mother and son would do. Cartwright drove to Louisiana on Sunday, Nov. 22 to surprise and meet Neal for the first time the week of Thanksgiving after his plans of coming for Mother’s Day were halted due to COVID-19.

“To me the heart was the one thing that tied them all together. From that time on he called me mom. He only calls me that. I don’t know if he knows my real name,” said Neal.

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