Heart Transplant Recipient Runs Into Donor's Family at a Baseball Game By Chance

Robin Zlotnick - Author

Apr. 30 2019, Updated 11:45 a.m. ET

Rarely do you think that the day you attend a baseball game will change your life forever. But that's exactly what happened for the siblings of organ donor Donovan Bulger. 

Twenty-one-year-old Donovan died in 2016 after a tragic accident. Per Donovan's wishes, several of his organs were donated to people in need, saving multiple lives. His siblings attended a St. Louis Cardinals game this past weekend at Busch Stadium on Transplant Awareness Day to honor their brother's life and raise awareness about organ donation. 

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That would have been a fulfilling enough day for the Bulger siblings, but then something remarkable occurred. Donovan's sister, Savannah Roesch, told CNN, "We were all standing there representing our brother when we heard someone ask, 'Are you Donovan's family?'"

In a Facebook post, Savannah writes that she didn't think much of it. Maybe these strangers were people who knew Donovan, either from work or from school. She never expected what they would say next.

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John Sueme had been the recipient of a heart transplant after being in heart failure for five years. After his transplant in 2016, his family learned John had received Bulger's heart. It was a complete coincidence that Sueme and his family also happened to attend the Cardinals game for Transplant Awareness Day, but once they were there, they recognized Donovan's face on the custom t-shirts his siblings wore. 

After his transplant, John wrote an anonymous letter to Donovan's family thanking them. He wasn't supposed to identify himself. But a few months later, he received a letter back from Savannah with a couple pictures of Donovan. One of these pictures was on the Bulger family's t-shirts.

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John's daughter saw the t-shirts and recognized Donovan's picture immediately. Needless to say, the meeting was tremendously emotional. Donovan's siblings took turns listening to their brother's heart beat inside John's chest. It was, according to Roesch, a total "hug fest and cry fest." 

"It was the best $100 tickets we ever bought," Donovan's sister Katie Seper told CNN. "It was very surreal." For the rest of the game, the two families shared stories and got to know each other. They took pictures and videos that have now been seen and viewed by thousands. 

In the letter Savannah sent to John, she wrote about Donovan's pride in his Italian heritage. John and his wife told Donovan's family they recently took a trip to Italy and lit a candle for him while they were there. 

John's wife, Liza Sueme, told CNN, "My husband wouldn't have been able to go on that trip without the gift Donovan gave him. It's just all overwhelming to think this all happened."

Savannah is convinced Donovan had something to do with their meeting. In her Facebook post, she writes, "I think Donovan arranged us to meet this way. What are the chances of this happening?"

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Donovan's siblings couldn't be prouder of their brother for being an organ donor or more ecstatic that they were able to meet the recipient of his heart. "This gives us peace," Katie told CNN. "We know he isn't coming back but a sigh of relief knowing they are so appreciative of all that."

The Bulgers and the Suemes are now bonded for life. Savannah told CNN, "We went to the game as six but left as nine. We are family." This is all thanks to Donovan's generosity as an organ donor, and thanks to a chance encounter at a baseball game that neither of the families expected to happen. 

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