LOWER MACUNGIE TWP., Pa. – Jessica Will has always had a heart for others.

The wife and mom was busy living life as a special education teacher, when she began to feel weak. She knew what was happening. When she was just 6 years old, Will had bladder cancer. She underwent chemotherapy and radiation which saved her life but damaged her heart.

Her doctors, who'd monitored her for years, said it was time to go on the donor list. Right after Christmas in 2019, Will was taken to the hospital.

"I just waited there," Will said. "I was admitted to the cardiac ICU. You're hooked up to a lot of machines that are just saving your life."

As she knew being on the list offered no guarantee, she and her husband actually planned her funeral.

"I wrote a couple of letters that I put in a journal that I kept there — just letters to let my kids know everything I wanted to say to them," she said, "to let my husband know how important he was to me, and how special our life was together." 

The days dragged, but then on Feb. 24, her phone rang.

"So I answered the phone and they said, 'Is this Jessica?'" she recalled. "I said, 'Yes it is,' and they said, 'Jessica, we have a heart for you.'"

It was Gift of Life Donor Program calling, and they told her she'd get a transplant that night. Even in the middle of her joy, though, Will felt a stab of pain.

"I realized someone lost someone that they loved, and that hit me like a ton of bricks," she said. "It was almost instant that I cried out of joy and cried out of grief for this other family."

The other family belonged to a 20-year-old man named Dom. He loved fixing cars, and, coincidentally, he also had a heart for kids with special needs. He volunteered at the Special Olympics, never knowing that a special education teacher would someday receive his heart.

Will and Dom's mother have become friends, and though they haven't met yet because of COVID-19, they're already making plans.

"I can't wait until I can hug her and let her listen to her baby boy's heart again," Wills said. "I vowed to her that I will keep his legacy alive for as long as I possibly can."

Will has always had a heart for others, but little did she know that someone else had a heart for her, too.

"Everything I do, I do for Dom," she said. "I touch my scar every morning and I say, 'OK, where are we going today?'" 

On Friday, April 16, Will is taking part in the Gift of Life's annual Donor Dash event, which usually draws thousands of people to the front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

However, this year's event is virtual, so it's called "Dash From Home." Supporters can sign up to walk or run in their own neighborhoods to help bring the life-saving mission to every town. Visit the Dash From Home webpage to learn how to register and participate. 

To learn more about organ donation or to register to become a donor, visit the Gift of Life Donor Program website.  

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