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Indiana family meets son’s heart recipient for the first time, listens to heartbeat

Keith Thrower
Posted at 7:45 PM, Apr 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-16 19:45:56-04

INDIANAPOLIS — An Indiana family listened to their son’s heartbeat for the first time since his death after donating his heart to a Milwaukee police veteran.

Debbie and Dan Patterson lost their son, Nick, to a heroin overdose in 2021.

Losing Nick to drug abuse was difficult for the family, but they decided to turn tragedy into triumph.

The Patterson’s made the decision to donate Nick’s organs.

“Drug users and abusers think their lives are worthless. So can their families,” Debbie said. “But we decided Nick’s life isn’t worthless. We’re going to turn a tragedy into some positives.”

Nick Patterson
Nick Patterson

The Patterson’s, of Brookville, donated Nick’s heart and kidneys.

Today, his heart beats inside Keith Thrower, a 30-year retired police veteran from Milwaukee.

Thrower says he could have died many times during his life and career.

Thrower underwent triple bypass surgery and experienced multiple heart attacks. He spent years undiagnosed with Legionnaire’s disease.

According to Thrower, after a heart surgery in 2021, his doctor gave him two days left to live unless he received a new heart. The heart he received was Nick’s.

Thrower’s surgery was performed at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee.

“When I came to after my transplant surgery, I wanted to immediately pay things forward and connect with my donor hero’s family to thank them and become a part of their family,” Thrower said.

On Friday, Thrower met the Pattersons in person for the first time at Indiana Donor Network.

Debbie and Dan Patterson meeting Keith Thrower for the first time

He was able to thank them for their gift of life and let them hear their son’s heart beating for the first time since his death.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction or substance abuse, click here.

For more information on Indiana Donor Network, click here.