Caters Real Life

Share this story with friends and family:

A woman who went deaf has finally heard her deceased son’s heart beating for the first time after organ donation

A woman who went dead has heard her deceased son’s heart beat for the first time after meeting the stranger who received the lifesaving transplant.

Dona and Dennis are now great friends

Dona and Dennis are now great friends


Tragic Jack Taran Essex, 18, from Manchester, died after being struck by a lorry in January 2015, his devastated mum, Dona Unsworth, 50, then made the brave decision to donate his organs.

One year later she was finally able to contact the stranger who had received her son’s heart – his name was Dennis Laycock, 57, and for the first time the pair met on April 26 – Dona’s 50th birthday.

The pair had been chatting on Facebook for two months previous but nothing could prepare them for the emotional meeting.

It was even more poignant for Dona, who had been deaf for almost two years after a reaction to medication left her in a coma, as she could hear Jack’s heart beating thanks to a Cochlear implant.

Since meeting just five months ago, Dona and Dennis have become the best of friends and now speak daily.

Dona, a former personal assistant, said: “Losing Jack was devastating but after making the decision to donate his organs, we were told he’d saved five lives.

Dona and her son Jack

Dona and her son Jack


“Me and my husband, Graham, 62, were desperate to get in touch with the person who had received our son’s heart and we wrote a letter to the donor recipient.

“After getting in touch with Dennis in February this year, we soon started chatting every day and it gave myself and Graham such comfort that Jack’s heart had gone to someone so genuine and kind.

“It was just three years ago that I was fighting for my life in a coma after the medication I was taking for deep vein thrombosis clashed and caused a life threatening reaction.

“Thankfully I had pulled through but it robbed me from hearing Jack’s voice in the months leading up to his death.

“My Cochlear implant was fitted behind my ear in July 2015 and after one year and 10 months of being deaf, I was able to hear again although it would never cure my deafness.

“The first thing I heard was Graham saying ‘hello Dona,’ which sounded like chipmunks.

“I hadn’t heard my son’s heart beat for years but meeting Dennis gave me the chance to, it was so emotional seeing him for the first time.

“We both shed a few tears and he had recorded Jack’s heart beat into a teddy for me to keep.”

Dona cries after hearing her sons heartbeat for the first time in years

Dona cries after hearing her sons heartbeat for the first time in years


Jack was hit by a lorry after crossing the road in front of a bus, it is thought he was wearing headphones at the time and didn’t hear or see the oncoming traffic.

Dona added: “Being told Jack was in hospital was terrifying but I had no idea how serious his injuries were until we got to hospital.

“He had suffered severe trauma to the head and brain scans revealed he’d already gone, it was time to say our final goodbyes.

“Jack was hooked up to all sorts of machines but on January 29 he died and we donating his organs the following day.

“That was a horrific ordeal in itself but since meeting Dennis, we know his heart couldn’t have gone to kinder person.

“Since meeting in April he has become a huge part in our lives, we have always felt as though Jack is still very much with us but when I’m with Dennis I feel that even more so.

“Dennis still refers to his heart as Jacks and that gives us great comfort in knowing how much he appreciates the lifesaving gift.”

Jack was on his way to college when his life was tragically cut short – something that later prompted Dona, with the help of her husband, Graham, to set up the campaign ‘stop, pause, look, listen,’ and recently The Jack Taran Foundation for parents of sudden loss of a child.

Dona added: “We offer emotional and financial help to those who are in a similar situation to us.

“It has given us something to focus on and I’ve done several talks in schools about the dangers of not looking and listening out for oncoming cars before stepping onto the road.

Dona listening to Jack's heart beating

Dona listening to Jack’s heart beating


“We’ve created posters which say, ‘Jack says, stop, pause, look and listen,’ and put together a video, we would hate for another family to go through what we have.

“And since Jack’s death, Graham has become a published author of four books, with children from Jack’s former school, Saddleworth High School, helping with this latest one called Tom O Kell and The Curse of Amurabis.

“His pen name is Allan Graham, he has organised Saddleworth Literary Festival from scratch and is hosting it in October which is a huge achievement and has helped rebuild our lives.”

Since the heart transplant last year on January 31, Dennis has overcome many health obstacles but is now rebuilding his life after spending over 32 years in the Royal Navy.

Dennis said: “Thanks to Jack’s heart I am able to walk my daughter, Keeley, 29, down the aisle next year, something I never imagined I’d live to see and watch my grandson, Harrison, grow up.

“She has been my rock throughout my surgery and with meeting Dona and Graham.

“After I began to feel breathless in 2013 while at work, my health rapidly starting declining and doctors soon realised I had heart failure and needed a new heart.

“It was touch and go but after a few days of being on the urgent list, I was wheeled down to surgery as they’d found a match. I can never thank Jack and his family enough for their gift and I’m now a trustee of Jack’s charity.

“We’ve all become so close in just seven months, I feel like I’ve known Dona and Graham for a life time.

“They will both be attending my daughter’s wedding next year and are both looking forward to meeting my grandson for the first time.”

To donate to The Jack Taran Foundation please visit:

Do you, or someone you know, have a similar story to tell? Get in touch today to earn £££ and raise awareness.


Call us on 0800 001 5599

Contact Us


With hundreds of stories to choose from, our writers have the case study you’re looking for.

Contact Us