It's Happening: An Update of Two Families Connected through Organ Donation

By Julie Perine on April 21, 2024 from It’s Happening via

Four years ago, we brought you the story of Donald Ott, a resident of Duncansville, Pennsylvania, who developed strong ties to Bridgeport through the gift of organ donation. With April being National Donate Life Month, I wanted to bring you up to speed on what’s been happening in this life and how two families have become connected in a most unique way.
Physically, the gift of a new heart has been a game changer.
“It has definitely been a life-changing experience,” Donald said. “I went from not being able to do anything to being back up, walking and doing things I hadn’t been able to do. I have a lot more energy.”
He was 54 years old when he received a phone call that the heart which he needed so desperately was available. It was the heart of 43-year-old Mark Mudrick who through a fall, received severe head trauma and later died at Ruby Memorial Hospital. Many in our city and surrounding area knew Mark, his wife Heather and their seven combined children: Three of hers, three of his and a little boy they shared. While he was still on life support, Heather had an important decision to make. Her husband had registered to be an organ donor and she decided to honor that wish.
On Nov. 30, 2017, the transplant took place at Ruby Memorial Hospital, one of 89 heart transplant surgeries that have taken place in West Virginia. There have been no issues with rejection.
“I’m done with catheterizations and now just have to do regular stress tests,” Donald said. “Everything has been perfect, including bloodwork. Everything is right where it’s supposed to be, and it has been that way since they put the heart in.”
Donald has in recent years pursued his hobbies and passions, which include hunting, fishing and spending time with his 14 grandkids.
“My cardiologist said most people going through what I did wouldn’t have made it. He said somebody was working in my favor,” Donald said. “He said I’ve been through so much and I should just enjoy my life. And that’s what I’m doing.”
As of earlier this year, he is now dad to a two-year-old little girl named Autumn. He and his girlfriend Pam took her in when she was just five months old. She is the biological daughter of Pam’s great-niece, who experienced serious problems and was unable to take care of her.
Through a series of hearings and trials, Donald and Pam were initially awarded kinship and in January of this year, the adoption became official. Heather and her kids traveled to Pennsylvania to share in the celebration.
“Heather means the world to me. I try not to bug her too much, but I talk to her as much as I can,” Donald said. “Ever since we met, we just connected. We stay in touch and keep up on what’s going on in each other’s lives.”
Donald doesn’t take his second chance at life for granted. He knows that for his health to be restored, someone had to die. He will forever be grateful to Mark Mudrick, as well as Heather  and her family. That family now includes husband Jason (Campbell) and his children.
Although West Virginia organ donation has increased in recent years, the need also continues to grow. According to up-to-date information from WVU Medicine, more than 100,000 people nationwide are waiting for an organ transplant; 2,500 of them in West Virginia in western Pennsylvania. Twenty-plus individuals will die each day without the transplant they need.  Kidneys are in greatest demand (90,000 in need nationally), followed by liver, heart, and lungs.
In addition to organs harvested during life support, living individuals can donate, too. Options include kidney and liver. About 6,500 living donation transplants happen every year.
The Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE) encourages conversations with family members and friends about registering as a donor. One donor can save several lives. Learn more and sign up HERE at

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