Michele Barnett gripped her son’s hand and placed her head against his chest. Keeping him alive were a series of machines that pushed air into his lungs, fed him fluids and kept his heart beating.

A critical care nurse, Barnett knew her son’s prognosis when she first saw the machines: His brain was dead. Jeremy Barnett, a 27-year-old Army sergeant, had been on patrol in Ad Dujayl, Iraq, when a land mine detonated.

Michele Barnett had not left Jeremy’s bedside since arriving at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, even taking it upon herself to bathe him. But after 15 hours, doctors were preparing in a nearby operating room to harvest her son’s organs, including his heart.

Placing her head against his breast, she listened — one last time — to its thump.

“I didn’t know if I could ever find that person who received his heart,” she said. “And there was a thought that maybe I could hear it beat again.”

Jeremy Barnett died on Feb. 24, 2007, but his heart saved the life of a 51-year-old woman living in Europe. Michele Barnett would never know the woman’s name or the country she lived in.

“It’s a very hard thing to lose your child like this. I still think about him every day,” she said. “But it’s a comfort to know that part of him is still alive, and what better part than his heart?”

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