Man rides bike from Wisconsin to hear his dead daughter’s heart again

Last January, Abbey Conner, 20, a junior at the University of Wisconsin Whitewater; and her brother, Austin, a graduating senior at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, were found at the bottom of a swimming pool in Cancun, Mexico. Their dad thinks someone put chemicals in their drinks.

Abbey died of a traumatic brain injury, and Austin lived to graduate late last month.

So after the commencement exercises, their father, Bill Conner, got on his bike in Madison and started riding south.

He’s made it as far as Baton Rouge, which is convenient because that’s where his daughter’s heart is — inside Jack Lounmouth Jr., a 23-year-old who’s had two heart attacks from a viral infection and was near death when Bill had the worst day of his life. (See video)

“Has he been sassier that usual lately?” Conner asked Jack’s friends when they met on Father’s Day. Because that’s how his daughter was.

Three other people got organs from Abbey.

The identities of the recipients are secret but an organ donation organization sent letters to all of them asking if they’d like to meet Conner during his bike trip. Lounmouth was the only one who responded.

“Thank you,” young Jack said after a long hug.

“Don’t thank me, thank my daughter,” Conner said, moments before listening to his daughter’s heart with the stethoscope Jack handed him, saying, “Happy Father’s Day.”

Bill, meanwhile, is riding his bike again, heading for Fort Lauderdale, calling attention to the need for organ donors all along the way.

“I had to do something,” Conner said. “I had to get out because it was just consuming me.”

When he arrives at the end of his ride, he plans a beachfront celebration with a a keg of Guinness. He says he’ll hand his daughters ashes to people so they can all let her go together.

  • Zachary

    Next time I renew my DL, I’m getting my donor cert. I’ve talked about it, and it’s in my will, but I never got around to actually punching in it.

    • jon

      Make sure your family knows and if they disagree, convince them, or at least enough of them to ensure that you wishes are actually followed.

      My wife fears that my mother-in-law will say no to donating organs in the heat of the moment… I’ve been instructed to not allow that to happen.

      My wife’s instructions in the event of my death were to scrape me for parts and dispose of the rest of my body in the most economical way possible, I won’t be in need of it any more.

      • Zachary

        My mom has similar instructions “chop me up for whatever you can salvage” (more or less her actual words)!

    • Kassie

      I think the most important place for it to be is in your Health Care Directive along with naming someone to act if you cannot who understands your wishes. Your will doesn’t get looked at until you are dead and your family can overrule anything on your license.

      • Zachary

        I have to double check that location. I had always talked about it, but I don’t know if it’s actually written down in there.
        I don’t know why I never got around to putting it on my DL