Berkley man got daughter's heart after her death 18 years ago - FOX 32 News Chicago

Berkley man got daughter's heart after her death 18 years ago

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By Maurielle Lue
Fox 2 News Reporter


DETROIT (WJBK) -- A Berkley man received his daughter's heart after she died in a tragic car accident in 1994.  Chester Szuber has spent years making people aware of the importance of organ donation, and this holiday season, he wants you to talk to your family about the gift of life.

"It's not easy because I had to make a decision that no other man has ever made in the world before to accept the heart of his daughter," said Szuber.

The heart of his youngest daughter, Patti, has been beating inside the 76-year-old's chest for almost two decades.

Patricia Szuber, just 22 at the time, died in a car accident while on a camping trip with friends in Tennessee.  The call from doctors wasn't good.

"Don't bother coming down as death is but moments away," Szuber recalled.  "There isn't a pen or a pencil made that can write the words or lips that can describe the situation when you get a call like that."

Patti never woke from her coma.  Grief of her death took a toll on her father.  He was in poor health, on the heart transplant list for four years, but from this tragedy came a miracle.  Doctors told Chester his daughter left him one final gift.  She said if anything ever happened to her, she wanted her dad to have her heart.

"You could've knocked me over with a feather.  We never considered it, never thought about it.  A million things went through my mind.  Is this ethical?  Is this right?  What will other people say?  Can I stand that every heartbeat reminded me of Patti?  And I turned her down," Szuber said.

Patti's mother, sister and four brothers changed his mind.

"They all (came) in, (said), 'Dad, do it.'  So we called... the coordinator to tell her that I changed my mind.  That we would accept Patti's heart."

Chester has spent the last 18 years giving speeches about the importance of being an organ donor.  Patti gave the gift of sight to two women.  Her liver and kidneys live on and 50 bone and tissue samples went to accident and burn victims.

"I think that as Patti looks down and sees all the good she has done, she has to be one of the happiest little angles," said Szuber.

Making the most of his new chance at life, Chester now spends his time spreading cheer to others selling Christmas trees, wreaths and anything else that will spread holiday spirit, never missing a chance to tell people his story.  When he doesn't have the words, he asks Patti.

"Make me an effective speaker, one that can get the point across without being rude, being factual, and I think she's done a good job."

So this holiday season when you're passing the turkey and the dressing, have a conversation with your family about organ donation.  It's a tough conversation to have, but it could save a life.

For more information about organ donation, visit www.giftoflifemichigan.org.

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