Heart recipient meets donor's mother
Ruth Campbell, 8 February 2006

One of the first things Kayree Turner did when she met Larry Lawrence was put her ear to his chest. Lawrence, a former NFL quarterback, received the heart of Turner's son, Matthew Cory Watterson at University of Texas Medical Br! anch in Galveston on Dec. 28, 2003. It turned out, Lawrence and Watterson were in the same hospital.

Last week marked the first meeting for Lawrence and Turner. They had been writing perfunctory notes to each other for more than a year. Watterson died in custody at thePulaski Unitof the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Livingston. The 22-year-old was Turner's only son. Watterson had multiple seizures that caused three major strokes. It was later found he had an operable brain tumor.

He had been in prison for a parole violation, Turner said. The auto! psy said he died Dec. 23, 2003 but was not pronounced dead until Dec. 27, 2003, she said. With no hesitation, Turner, a former Midlander who now lives in Odessa, decided to donate her son's organs for transplant, then cremated her son's body so she could keep him with her. She had not held her son in four years before he died.

"I didn't realize how important all this was until I met you," Turner told Lawrence in an interview at the United Blood Services Donor Center in Midland on Wednesday. "I did listen to his heart. It's real strong. He's taken such good care of it. I know you have the best part of my kid because he had a heart of gold and would have done anything for anybody," she said, tears in her eyes.

She added that knowing where her son's heart is and meeting the recipient has brought her peace. "I'm proud to have done it and I'm happy you're alive," she said. She said her son's liver has also been transplanted, but she has not had contact with the recipient.

Larry Lawrence, who played quarterback for the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1974-1976), has "sticky platelets." The 56-year-old said his cholesterol was fine and he was at his high school weight. However, he suffered two heart attacks -- the second while installing satellite Internet on an offshore oil rig.

He thought he had pneumonia but found out he had a heart attack four days previous. He didn't recognize it because he experienced no chest pain. Doctors told him that was because he was operating with only 10 to 15 percent blood flow and no pain receptors.

Before the transplant, he got a Left Ventricular Assist Device -- a stopgap measure for someone whose heart has failed, he said. He used the LVAT for about 30 days before the transplant. Ironically, a little more than 30 ! years ago, Lawrence's younger brother died in a car wreck. "My parents chose to donate his body. He was 22 at the time," Lawrence said. "So really my family has seen it from both sides."