Veteran firefighter suffers fatal stroke. But what happens to his heart—girlfriend can hear it again

"I just want to hear Perry’s heart once more."
May 13, 2018 11:24 pm Last Updated: May 13, 2018 11:24 pm

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, six people are added to the national transplant waiting list every hour, 20 people die every day waiting for an organ transplant, and as of May 4 there are currently 114,948 waiting for a life-saving transplant.

Perry Choy, a firefighter from San Francisco, wanted to help change those statistics. He wanted to continue saving lives even if he wasn’t physically present anymore.

Choy was a 20-year veteran firefighter and described as one of the fittest at his station.

Choy and his girlfriend, Aletha Gomez, had a baby boy, Jeremy Kaiden Gomez-Choy, together and couldn’t wait to begin the rest of their lives as a family.

Then, in August 2017, less than a week before Choy’s 47th birthday, he suffered a stroke. It was fatal.

The loving father suffered a fatal stroke shortly before his birthday.

Friends and family were stunned.

“He told me, ‘You know, when I pass away, when I die, what am I going to do with it? Might as well donate it and save more lives,'” Gomez told KCRA.

“He was probably the fittest guy in the station,” Deputy Chief Administrator with the San Francisco Fire Department Jeanine Nicholson said.

Choy wished to donate his organs after he died.

Despite suffering a fatal stroke, Choy’s heart was still healthy, which meant it was suitable for an organ transplant.

The lucky recipient was 63-year-old Jim Donovan.

“I actually gave up, and I gave up for a long time, and I didn’t think anything would happen,” Donovan, who suffered from congestive heart failure, told KOVR.

After nearly two years of waiting, Donovan found the perfect match—Choy’s heart.

Donovan was elated because, without a heart transplant, “I probably would have ended up on my deathbed.”

Now, months after her boyfriend’s final wish had been fulfilled, Gomez had the opportunity to meet Donovan.

“I finally get to hear his heart once again,” Gomez told KPIX as she choked back tears. “I just want to hear Perry’s heart once more.”

Months later Gomez was able to hear her boyfriend’s heart once more.

When she put the stethoscope up against Donovan’s chest she closed her eyes and suddenly it was just her and Choy’s heart.

“It was loud, it was strong,” she said. “As strong as his love for us.”

Gomez hopes to stay in touch with Donovan.

Donovan is grateful for Choy’s sacrifice and excited to start his second chance at life with his loved ones.

Gomez hopes that second chance at life allows for some time for her and her son.

“I feel so connected with him,” she told KCRA. “Actually, hearing his heart, it seems like he’s family to me now. We’re going to be a family.”

If you would like to be an organ donor you can register online or at your local motor vehicle department.