When Margaret Valsechi's son Stephen lost his fight for life, she made the courageous decision to donate
his organs for transplant. It was a decision that was to save the life of Bobby Doherty and allow him to become a father.
Margaret's decision meant that Bobby, 26, received her son's heart, and is now able to live his life to the full. It has also allowed him to become a father after his fiancé gave birth to their son Charlie, 11 months.
And now after a friendship which began with a heartfelt thank you letter, Bobby and Margaret have now met each other for the first time.
Bobby, a project manager for a building company who is engaged to Rebecca Baker says: "It was so wonderful to meet Margaret. We have been talking through letters and emails, but to meet her in person and be able to thank her was so emotional.
"It is thanks to her and her son Stephen that my life was saved and we have been able have our son Charlie. It was such a brave decision to make and words can't express how grateful I feel. I was nervous about meeting her, and I do feel guilty that I lived because her son died. But she was wonderful and our friendship will just get stronger and stronger.
"It was amazing for her to meet Charlie too. Without her, we wouldn't have been able to be parents."
Bobby, who lives in Tonbridge, Kent, was born with a congenital heart defect, with only one pumping chamber. Doctors told his mother he wouldn't live past three months, but he defied the doctors' predictions:
I was born in September and my mum was told that I wouldn't live until Christmas. I didn't have an operation, but gradually my heart adapted and my one pumping chamber did the work of two.
"I was smaller and weaker than other children my age, but I went to school and did my exams and managed to live a normal life."
But then at the age of 22, Bobby started to go downhill. He had an operation to try and redirect the blood flow, but it failed.
"There was no improvement after the operation. The doctors wanted to wait for six months to see if it got better, but nothing happened. I just carried on getting worse," he explains.
In March 2010, Bobby was placed on the transplant list for a new heart. By June he was so ill that he went for a check up at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle and he was kept in.
A donor heart became available and he was told that he could have his transplant in October that year. It had come from 26-year-old Stephen Valsechi, who lived in Belfast, who had passed away.
His organs were donated after Margaret, who lives in New York, made the brave decision.
His heart was donated to Bobby, whose life was saved by the operation. Three months later Bobby wrote a letter to Margaret, thanking her for her decision.
"I wanted to thank her for what she did, so I sent a card through the hospital for them to send on to her," says Bobby.
Margaret and her daughter Ellen then sent a reply and a friendship was struck up between them. They have since written regularly to each other.
When Bobby became a father for the first time when Rebecca gave birth to their son Charlie in October, he wrote and told Margaret, whom they now call Nanny Margaret.
"Margaret sends gifts for Charlie and we send over photos and videos so she can see how well he is doing. Charlie is only here because of what she did," says proud dad Bobby.
Bobby met Margaret and her daughter at the Westfield Health British Transplant Games for the first time recently and it was an emotional first ever meeting.
"It was wonderful to meet Margaret and Ellen. We are looking forward to spending a few days together," says Bobby.
"Stephen was a registered organ donor so we didn't hesitate to donate his organs as it is what he would have wanted," says Margaret.
To join the donor register, visit Organdonation.nhs.uk.
Stephen helped save the lives of four people. As a family we are so thankful that Stephen's heart went to Bobby, whom we have come to love and respect so much. It was emotional meeting him, but we were really looking forward to it.
Words: Lucy Laing at Worldwide Features
More on Parentdish: Five-year-old boy gives four people the gift of live after his death
- Miracle baby survives six months of chemo in the womb
Mum Stephanie Papworth was 12 weeks pregnant when she was <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/pregnancy-and-birth/the-miracle-baby-who-survived-six-months-of-chemotherapy-in-his-mother-womb-after-she-refused-abortion/" target="_blank">diagnosed with breast cancer.</a> Determined to give her baby a fighting chance, she refused an abortion, and baby Gabriel endured months of chemo, but was born healthy. Stephanie has now also been given the all clear after 12 months of treatment, and is now enjoying life with her new son.</p>
- Daughter's love letters help mum beat breast cancer
When doctors told Laura Binder that there was nothing they could do to save her from breast cancer, there was one person who refused to give up on her. <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/mum/linzis-miracle-love-letters-daughters-letters-to-sick-mum-help-beat-cancer-remission/" target="_blank">Her daughter Linzi wrote her mum a letter full of love and support </a>every day during her seven months of treatment. The mum of two has now amazed doctors by recovering from the cancer which had spread to her liver, and says it’s all down to Linzi’s love letters: “She was determined that I wasn't going to die and I was going to get better. And her wonderful letters have helped a miracle happen.”</p>
- Brave Ellie plays football without arms and legs
Ellis Challis might have lost both her arms and legs to meningitis, but she certainly isn’t letting it slow her down. The brave six-year-old learnt to walk on prosthetic legs, <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/kids/girl-of-the-match-brave-ellie-plays-football-without-arms-and-legs/" target="_blank">and now plays football for her school</a> - showing all the boys how it’s done! "It is fantastic to see Ellie playing football. When she lost her legs to meningitis we never imagined that one day she would be playing football for her school team,” says Ellie’s mum, Lisa. “All the other children are able bodied, but she keeps up with all the other team members. To think that she has prosthetic legs yet plays football for her school is just remarkable.”</p>
- Six-year-old boy beats meningitis every year of his life
Brave Seamus Rafferty has beaten the killer brain bug meningitis <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/kids/seamus-rafferty-six-astounds-doctors-by-beating-meningitis-every-year-of-life/" target="_blank">six times in just six years.</a> The little lad has been left with epilepsy and a tremor in his hands, but has luckily escaped any brain damage. Since Seamus’ last recovery, doctors have discovered, and closed up, a small hole in his skull which they think had been letting the virus into his brain. They are hopeful that Seamus, and his mum, Caoimhe’s nightmare is now over.</p>
- Miracle baby was worth every penny
This is the longed-for baby who cost her parents <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2012/01/08/our-miracle-baby-cost-us-40-000-but-she-is-worth-every-penny/ " target="_blank">£40,000 to bring into this world</a>. Baby Alice is Karen and Gary McLaren’s pride and joy, following six failed rounds of IVF. The couple’s fertility treatment was so costly, that Gary’s dad actually sold his house to help fund the couple’s bid to be parents. After the safe arrival of little Alice, the couple say every penny was worth it.</p>
- Baby boys born at 24 weeks are most premature triplets to have survived in Britain
Meet Max, Harvey and Lucas, three very special little boys who are the <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2012/02/24/baby-boys-born-at-25-weeks-are-most-premature-triplets-to-have-survived-britain/" target="_blank">most premature triplets ever to survive in Britain.</a> The boys were born at 24 weeks and five days, weighing less than 2lb each. After three months in hospital, 12 blood transfusions and an operation to repair a tear in Max’s stomach, the three boys are now finally at home with their proud parents, Rachael and Ashley Udell.</p>
- Medical miracle Ryan is first baby to survive being born with his heart outside his body
Ryan Marquiss wasn’t ever expected to survive when he was <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/kids/medical-miracle-ryan-marquiss-is-the-first-baby-to-survive-born-with-heart-outside-body/" target="_blank">born with his heart outside his body</a>. But the gorgeous little boy fought through the incredibly rare birth defect, and went through 12 major operations to catch up with his peers. Although he might require a heart transplant in the future, at the moment he’s thriving, so much so that his story has been reported in medical journals around the world.</p>
- Twins after nine years and 16,000 miles on fertility treatment
After spending a whopping <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2011/08/10/twins-after-nine-years-70-000-on-fertility-treatment-and-travelling-16000-miles/" target="_blank">£70,000 on fertility treatment</a>, Rachael and Mark Sadler are finally parents to twins Rebecca and Hazel. The couple reckon they clocked up over 16,000 miles during years of fertility treatment in a bid to be parents, but say every moment of heartache and every penny spent has been worth it now they have their gorgeous twins.</p>
- Twin Finn recovers from brain damage by copying his brother
When four-year-old Finn was diagnosed with a brain tumour, he made a <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2012/01/25/twin-finn-amazes-doctors-by-copying-brother-to-recover-from-braiin-damage/" target="_blank">remarkable recovery by copying his twin brother, Kian</a>. Finn has amazed doctors and his parents by over-coming mental and physical problems to be developmentally equal to Kian in every department!</p>
- Conjoined twins see each other for the first time
This is the incredible moment conjoined twins <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2011/09/15/the-look-of-love-conjoined-twins-joshua-and-jacob-spates-see-each-other-first-time/" target="_blank">Joshua and Jacob Spates saw each other for the first time</a>, following pioneering surgery to separate them. For the first six months of their lives, the two boys were conjoined at the base of their spines. Following 13 hours of surgery, the lads can now live independent lives and have been hailed as medical miracles.</p>
- Mum survives four heart attacks and a stroke while giving birth to twins!
New mum George Cormack <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2012/04/18/mum-survives-four-heart-attacks-and-a-stroke-while-giving-birth-to-twins/" target="_blank">amazingly survived four attacks and a stroke as she gave birth to her twins Oscar and Connie</a>. George almost died when her heart stopped after a bilateral stroke as she gave birth to her first twin, Oscar. Doctors put George in an induced coma to help her recover, and when she finally woke up, she spent three months battling to get back to health, getting to know her twins, and learning to speak again.</p>
- Mum-to-be refuses lung cancer operation to save unborn baby
Mum Daniella Jackson <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2012/05/15/mum-to-be-refuses-lung-cancer-operation-to-save-unborn-baby/" target="_blank">was left with a heartbreaking choice</a> when doctors discovered she had a cancerous tumour growing in her lung. She was advised to abort her growing baby when she was five months pregnant so doctors could urgently operate on the growing tumour in her left lung. But abortion was never an option for brave Daniella, and she was determined to wait until she gave birth to start treatment. A month later, the new mum underwent a four-hour operation to cut out the tumour and remove half of her lung, and is now making a slow recovery at home with baby Rennae.</p>
- Baby joy for mum who suffered 14 miscarriages, a stillbirth and the death of her two-week-old son
Maria Pridmore <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2012/03/06/miracle-mia-baby-joy-for-mum-who-suffered-14-miscarriages-a-stillbirth-death-of-son-two-weeks/" target="_blank">lost 16 babies over 13 years.</a> This included the stillbirth of daughter Shannon, and the death of her two-week-old son, Kia. Maria and partner John are now celebrating the birth of their healthy daughter, Mia Shannon, who was born by emergency Caesarean.</p>