Youngest heart transplant patient meets family of second donor

- She made national headlines as one of the youngest people to have a heart transplant in the late 90's, and the Mankato native has received one more heart since then.

Now Alyssa Sandeen is planning to meet the family of the most recent donor who saved her life.

Sandeen and Katlyn Leekley never met each other, but their lives and hearts will be forever intertwined.

"We both love to be around people, love to make people smile. We both enjoy the outdoors...a lot of things in common," Sandeen said.

"It really felt like this missing piece of the puzzle. You really want to know whose heart this is," she said.

Sandeen had her first heart transplant when she was just 8 years old after her own heart collapsed from cardiomyopathy, a disease that caused it to swell to four times its normal size.

But that heart started to fail 15 years later. So, Sandeen had another transplant, the organ coming from an unknown donor at the time, who she recently learned was Leekley.

Leekley was killed by a drunk driver while riding her motorcycle with friends in Iowa in 2013.

"I knew it would be a girl this time. It ended up being a girl. That's exciting, knowing where your heart is from," Sandeen said.

About a month ago, Leekley's mother reached out to Sandeen on Facebook to find out how her daughter's heart was holding up.

This weekend Sandeen will meet Leekley's family when she and her parents drive to Libertyville, Illinois where they'll walk to raise money for Mothers Against Drunk Driving as part of Team Kate.

"It's going to be very emotional, exciting... sad and happy tears all at the same time. I'm glad she finally gets to feel her daughter's heart. That's going to be amazing."

Sandeen says for now her third heart is healthy and she treats it like the gift that it is.

Thanks to Leekley, she's a living example of the importance of organ donation, a cause that is close to her heart.

"I wouldn't be here. I wouldn't have this amazing heart. I wouldn't be able to experience life and be as happy as I am right now and feel normal," Sandeen said.

Sandeen hopes to write a book about her experiences, and she wants to travel the world convincing people to become organ donors just like Leekley was.

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