Life is full of uncertainties and surprises, a chance meeting at a baseball game led to an emotional encounter for two families, like nothing before.
Donovan Bulger’s siblings, attended a St. Louis Cardinals game on Sunday at Busch Stadium to honor his life at the MLB team’s Transplant Awareness Day.
Bulger passed away in 2016 after a tragic accident. The 21-year-old Belleville, Illinois resident’s lifelong wish was to be an organ donor.
His organs have helped save the lives of several people, his siblings said. But never in their wildest dreams did they think they would run into one of them at a baseball game.
“We try to attend events to help spread awareness,” said Bulger’s sister, Savannah Roesch, who attended with her husband, Jake. “We were all standing there representing our brother when we heard someone ask ‘Are you Donovan’s family?’”
What happened led to a “hug fest and cry fest,” Roesch said. The person who received Bulger’s heart was present at the same game with his family.
John Sueme, along with his wife, Liza, daughter, Catherine, and two other friends attended the game because Transplant Awareness Day also impacted their family in a special way.
He had suffered from heart failure for five years, but received a new heart in 2016, which was Bulger’s.
Transplant Awareness Day at the MLB game was presented by Washington University, Barnes-Jewish Transplant Center and the St. Louis Children’s Hospital as a way to honor and celebrate the lives of families of organ donors and recipients.
The two families came fact to face, after the transplant, Sueme wrote a letter to Bulger’s family thanking them for the gift of life.
“I followed guidelines, I can’t name myself, it was a general letter thanking them for this tremendous gift,” Sueme, 65 of St. Louis, told CNN. “Several months later I received a letter from Savannah and enclosed were two pictures of Donovan.”
One of those pictures was printed on the lime green shirts that Bulger’s family wore to the game Sunday with the quote “brother, organ donor and hero.” Sueme’s daughter spotted the group next to a photo booth area and instantly recognized it.
“It was like lightning struck yesterday,” said Sueme. “I certainly always wanted to meet them.”
It was a heart-wrenching moment when they all hugged, cried and one by one Bulger’s family members listened to Sueme’s heartbeat.
“It was the best $100 tickets we ever bought,” said Bulger’s sister Katie Seper, who attended the game with her husband, Chris. “It was very surreal.”
They said that moment gave them peace listening to their brother’s heartbeat, and Roesch said it was a special moment for her husband, Jake, too.
“Donovan was at my house almost three days a week and every Saturday with us,” said Roesch. “Donovan and Jake were best friends and he was like a brother to him.”
They captured a video of that moment and shared it on Facebook, which has gone viral since.
“I’ve watched it about nine times today and still get the chills,” said Sueme.
During their chance encounter, the group exchanged stories and spoke about the letter Roesch had written to Sueme, mentioning that Bulger was proud of his Italian roots. Sueme and his wife told the siblings that they visited Italy and lit a candle for him.
“My husband wouldn’t have been able to go on that trip without the gift Donovan gave him,” Liza Sueme said. “It’s just all overwhelming to think this all happened.”
Bulger had always wanted to be an organ donor and had discussed it with his brother Brenden Bulger during their growing up days.
“We aren’t going to need our organs and there are other people out there that need them,” Brenden Bulger said. “People stay on those transplant lists for so long so why not try to help.”
The family of Bulger said they were extremely proud of their brother, “This gives us peace,” said Seper. “We know he isn’t coming back but a sigh of relief knowing they are so appreciative of all that.”
Looks like these two families are going to be spending more time together as they are already planning their next meet-up.
“Next time we will bring along a stethoscope,” said Brenden Bulger, who attended with his wife, Angie.
Today was a day I will NEVER EVER forget!!!!! This is definitely an amazing experience & am just SO blown away!! The…
Posted by Savannah Chavez Roesch on Sunday, April 28, 2019
They are planning to make a Build-A-Bear for all their children who will do a recording of their uncle’s heartbeat. “We went to the game as six but left as nine,” said Roesch. “We are family.”