LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A typical birthday celebration might include things like dinner and gifts you can buy at the store— but Jessica Honnell of Russellville wanted something closer to her heart this year.
In life, we've all had to make some tough choices, a concept Honnell is all too familiar with.
"Last September, my family was in a car accident," Honnell said.
The accident would forever change her family's life after her husband, Wes Honnell, died from a traumatic brain injury as a result of it.
"He was the love of my life [and] the most precious gift that God has ever given to me," Honnell described.
Still, in a clearly stressful situation, Honnell made the choice to donate Wes's organs in hopes that his legacy would continue to live on.
"His heart, and he donated tissue and like many different organs," Honnell said.
Just about everyone's eyes were filled with tears on the day Jessica met the man who received her husband's heart.
David Beaird, the recipient, said that he couldn't quite put into words how grateful he was for this family.
He had congestive heart failure for about four years and his condition gradually worsened over time.
"On a good day, I might be able to walk 10 [or] 15 feet where I'd have to stop and rest for a couple of minutes," he explained.
Recently, his cardiologist gave him a startling prognosis of six months to live if he didn't get a heart transplant.
After a first failed attempt, Beaird finally found a donor.
"You cannot express enough gratitude," Beaird said, emotionally. "Like I said, she gave me a new leaf in life."
On Saturday, family and friends watched as Honnell listened to Beaird's heartbeat for the first time.
"I had many nights of laying my head on my husband's chest and hearing his heartbeat, so even though he's in heaven, now it felt very familiar and a safe place," Honnell recalled.
Her birthday is on Monday and she said that all she wanted was to hear her husband's heartbeat again and meet the recipient of his heart.
While it might not bring the love of her life back, Honnell said that she was just happy Beaird has another chance to continue to live his life.
"Two families became one today and in a really beautiful way and I'm just grateful for that," Honnell said.
Since his heart transplant, Beaird has made major improvements— he's able to hunt fish and soon will be able to walk his daughter down the aisle.
All of this, of course, was only made possible thanks to Honnell and doctors at ARORA, an organ donation and tissue bank in Arkansas.
The staff here were able to help Honnell through the process.
To learn more about how you can get involved, visit ARORA's website.