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Family: ‘It really is beautiful’ — Heart recipient, donor’s daughter celebrate life

Melissa Colorigh traveled to Brookhaven Saturday to hear her mother’s heart beat again.

She put the stethoscope in her ears and placed the metal chest piece against Doris Arnold’s blouse. Then smiled. Then laughed. Then held back tears.

Colorigh met Doris Arnold in person Saturday at a “birthday” party at the Brookhaven Building. It had been two years since Arnold received a heart from Colorigh’s mom, Daphne Williams, and was given a second chance at life.

Arnold had dealt with heart issues for the better part of two decades before a transplant gave her renewed life in May 2016.

“When they told me I was getting a heart, I said, ‘Hallelujah, praise Jesus,’” she said.

Two years later, Arnold celebrated that gift with about 150 friends and family along with five special guests, Colorigh and her family.

“I am so glad they came because I said if they didn’t come, I was going to them, because they are a blessing to me,” Arnold said.

Colorigh, the eldest of Williams’ three children, came from Texarkana, Texas, with her husband of just two weeks, Morgan. Accompanying Melissa and Morgan for the celebration were Daphne’s sister Nani and her husband Jeffery.

Colorigh’s siblings couldn’t attend. Her sister, Miranda Ratliff, is in the Navy, and her brother, Jeffrey Paxton, is a cheerleader at college.

“It is overwhelming but it is overwhelming in such a joyful way,” Colorigh said. “You know, you do carry a lot of hurt and you feel empty. But seeing (Doris) and being around her, it fills in that gap a little bit.”

Years ago, Williams told her daughter she signed up to be an organ donor when she renewed her driver license.

“She said it very proudly. That was something that she knew she wanted to do very, very specifically, if something were to ever happen to her,” Colorigh said. “You need to think about it. It could save somebody’s life someday.”

In 2016, the Williamses were in a motorcycle accident just outside of Monroe, Louisiana. John Williams died at the scene, while Daphne Williams was airlifted to Shreveport. She was kept alive so that she could be a multiple organ and tissue donor.

Williams said being at the celebration Saturday helps with the healing process.

“You try to find different coping mechanisms, and just knowing that Doris is here with my mom’s heart that gives us a sense of peace almost,” she said.

After going through the proper channels — there’s a required one-year wait until identifying information can be made available — the two families originally connected through Facetime in November 2017.

Colorigh misses her mother, but said being around Arnold is a “peace in the storm.”

She wished her mother and Arnold could have met.

“I think she’d love her. I think she’d try to take her to a Zumba class,” she said.

It was bittersweet for Colorigh to be at the event, held the day before Mother’s Day.

“Seeing Miss Doris, and my mom, knowing that a piece of her is still here, still with us, and still alive and well, it’s mind-blowing. It really is beautiful,” she said.

According to the Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency, approximately 1,400 Mississippians and 116,000-plus Americans are in need of a lifesaving transplant. A new patient is added to the national transplant waiting list every 10 minutes and an average of 22 people die each day awaiting a lifesaving transplant that never comes.

One organ donor can save eight lives and one tissue donor can save or improve the lives of 50 recipients or more.

To register to be an organ, eye and tissue donor go to www.donatelifems.org.