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He Got a New Heart, Rode Across US as a Thank-You

'Bicycling' tells the story of one organ recipient's grand gesture
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 1, 2020 7:00 AM CST

(Newser) – Christine Cheer held a stethoscope to the chest of Mike Cohen and listened to the beat of his heart. More specifically, she listened to the beat of her son's heart, which had been implanted into Cohen after her son's death. Such meetings are always remarkable, but A.C. Shilton's story in Bicycling explains that this one had even more unusual twist. Cohen had ridden his bicycle across the country—from San Diego to Jacksonville, Florida—to meet Cohen's parents and pay his respects at the gravestone of James Mazzuchelli. The latter had been a 32-year-old Navy flight surgeon when he was mortally injured in a helicopter training mission at Camp Pendleton.

Cheer and her husband, David, got to the California hospital before he died, but doctors informed them their son would never wake up. Cheer then made sure his organs were donated. The day Mazzuchelli was injured just happened to be Cohen's 33rd birthday. That day, he blew out the candles of his cake and wished for a new heart, writes Shilton. Cohen had survived leukemia as a youth, but the treatment ravaged his heart, and it finally began failing. The transplant was successful, and after Cheer reached out to him with a letter about her son, Cohen settled on his plan for the bike journey. "As cliché as it sounds, I wanted them to know that James’s heart was in a safe place," he says of his donor's parents. "That I was going to do everything I could to protect it." (Read the full story.)

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