News

My son was beaten to death at bus stop – now I listen to his heart beat in a stranger

Whenever Kathy Barber meets up with her best friend, they share an astonishingly moving ritual.

She pulls out a stethoscope to listen to Geoff Melia’s chest – so she can hear the beating heart of her son who died 11 years ago aged just 24.

The two met years after grieving Kathy, 57, allowed Danny’s liver, kidneys, pancreas and heart to be used for transplants.

An attack by a teen gang at a bus stop had left him with unsurvivable head injuries.

She’d wanted something positive to come from his senseless death. “After turning off his life-support machine, I knew what he’d want,” she says.

Four lives were saved, including Geoff’s, who was on borrowed time after a heart attack at 28.

He feared he’d never see his newborn son grow up.

Transplant anonymity rules meant Kathy, of Manchester, and the receiving patients could only communicate by letter via a co-ordinator.

Yet the mum knew at least one of Danny’s organs had gone to Wythenshawe hospital, only eight miles from her home.

When Geoff wrote to her wanting to know all about Danny, it struck a chord. “He couldn’t have been more grateful,” says Kathy.

“The flurry of letters between us made me feel so connected. I wanted to hug him and feel Danny there.”

Independently of the strict letters, they found out they lived 12 miles apart and arranged to meet in a pub.

Kathy says: “When Geoff walked in, I knew it was him. We hugged and he said, ‘Do you want to feel Danny’s heart?’ I put my hand on his chest and could feel it beating.

“Later I borrowed a stethoscope so I could hear it too – a beautiful boom, boom. It was magical.”

Now dad-of-three Geoff and his family are firm friends with Kathy and her daughter Hayley.

“It was like our two families became one because of Danny,” says Kathy.

Geoff adds: “Every day with Danny’s heart in my chest is a blessing. We’re now part of each other’s families – we share all the big days.

“Donating organs is the gift that keeps on giving.”