Heart recipient

Heart transplant recipient Antoinette Holloway, right, looks on as her aunt, Ernestine Craig, gives Todd Rowell a hug. Rowell is the father of heart donor Jeremy Coonradt. At left is Antoinette's brother Levi Moore. (Larry Fisher/QUAD-CITY TIMES)

Larry Fisher

Antoinette Holloway said she never got the chance to meet her special valentine.

“But I have his heart,” she said.

Holloway, who goes by Anne, not only is a miracle medical technology. She is a living testimony to a 21-year-old Cedar Falls man’s natural propensity for giving.

For the first time since August of 2007 when Holloway received the heart of Jeremy Lee Coonradt, she got to meet her special valentine’s family during a dinner Saturday at The Dedicated Few Christian Church in Rock Island.

“This has been a long time coming,” said Jeremy’s father, Todd Rowell, 44, of Waterloo.

The two had tried to meet before, but each time, Rowell’s emotions got the better of him.

“I don’t know how to explain it,” Rowell said through tears. “I’m just glad we go to meet and thankful I can be a part of her life now. She never gave up on me.”

As Holloway’s aunt, Ernestine Craig, of Davenport, said, “These things take time. The right time had to come, and this is it.”

Holloway had a heart attack at the age of 42 in June 2006. That was when the doctors told her she had been born without a main artery to the heart.

“Nobody discovered it until I had my heart attack,” she said. “I played basketball, baseball, ran track.”

She was recommended for a heart transplant in 2007 and was placed on the transplant list at University Hospitals, Iowa City, in July of that year. Merely a month later, a heart was available.

It belonged to Jeremy Coonradt, who had signed a donor card.

“I can’t stress enough the importance of organ donation,” Rowell said. “Not only does Jeremy live on, but he helped to save a beautiful life.”

Rowell said that in addition to the heart he gave Holloway, Jeremy’s eyes were donated to help another see, and his skin was donated for skin grafts for burn victims.

“People need to sign those donor cards,” Rowell said. “It’s so important to be an organ donor.

“I have a larger family because of it.”

Holloway’s brother, Levi Moore of Davenport, was at the event with his fiancée, Joyce.

“It’s a feeling of joy to meet family of the man whose heart is keeping my sister alive,” Moore said. “We are so blessed.”

But they also ache for Jeremy’s family, Moore said. “For his family to have to suffer the heart break of letting him go, and then for them to give us this. Jeremy lives on.”

Holloway had to fight through the heart attack and then through the transplant. She also had to make changes to her lifestyle in terms of eating and exercise.

“She’s gone through a lot, but she’s a tough cookie,” Craig said. “She’s a fighter. You can’t keep her down.”

Rowell and Holloway sat next to one another during dinner. They ate, they hugged, and they cried together.

The two have kept in touch via email and Facebook, and now that the families have met, both said they plan to be as one family always.

“I was able to sleep all week long, except last night,” Holloway said. “I couldn’t wait for tomorrow.”

Michael Harkrider, 28, Jeremy’s brother, said he is thankful the families have come together.

“It’s a real miracle to see someone able to live their life through our family,” Harkrider said. “We’re one family now.”