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10 Organ Recipients Who Took on the Traits of Their Donors
Organ donations and transplants have saved countless lives. However, some people claim to have received more than just the working organ. There is an increasingly studied phenomenon known as “cellular memory”—the theory that cells within an organ carry the memories and desires of the person to whom they belonged. While it’s still very much on the fringes of science, as more studies are done, more and more examples appear to be making the case that cellular memory may be more than just a wild theory. Here are 10 examples.
10 Claire Sylvia Has Strange Cravings and Dreams
Not only did the heart and lung transplant that 47-year-old Claire Sylvia received save her life, but it also made her the first person in New England to undergo the process. She’s also convinced that in addition to vital organs, she received some of her donor’s tastes as if his memories were locked into his heart and lungs and consequently are now flowing in her body.
She told a reporter that when she was asked what she wanted to do first after the operation, she said that she was “dying for a beer right now.” This was strange to Claire, as she’d never enjoyed beer in the slightest before. Over the coming days, she also found that she was experiencing cravings for foods that she’d never liked or even eaten before, such as green peppers, Snickers chocolate bars, and strangely, McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets, something which she’d never had a desire to eat.
She also began to experience strange dreams. She would see a thin, young man who she believed was called Tim. Specifically, she had the words “Tim L” in her mind when she had the dreams. By searching through local obituaries of the days leading up to the day of her transplant, she came across Timothy Lamirande.
Timothy Lamirande was 18 years old when he died in a motorcycle accident on the same day as Claire’s transplant. He had been on his way home from a local McDonalds restaurant. A bag of Chicken McNuggets was found in his jacket pocket when doctors removed his clothing in a desperate attempt to save his life.
She managed to track down Tim’s family, whom she hadn’t met before, and they confirmed to her that the cravings she was having were indeed all for foods that Tim had enjoyed very much, beer and all. She has remained in touch with Tim’s family ever since.
9 Jamie Sherman Awakes From Transplant Feeling Rage and Anger
Jamie Sherman had underwent several heart surgeries by the time she had a heart transplant at the age of 24. She’d suffered from a heart defect since birth. When she awoke following the successful procedure, she felt a deep sense of anger, so much so that she wanted to fight, although she didn’t know why. She also began to have cravings for Mexican food, especially cheese enchiladas, which she hadn’t craved before.
Six months following the transplant, Jamie met the family of her donor, a 29-year-old man named Scott Phillips. She quickly mentioned her cravings and liking for Mexican foods, and she wasn’t too surprised to hear that Scott’s favorite food was Mexican, and he particularly liked cheese enchiladas.
When Jamie found out that Scott had died in a fight at a sports bar after being hit in the head and suffering major brain trauma, she felt that she now understood where her sudden feelings of anger came from. She theorized that he felt anger and rage in the seconds before he was hit and consequently died, and these feelings were locked in his heart when it was transplanted to her.
8 Sonny Graham Kills Himself in the Exact Same Way as His Donor
In 2008, Sonny Graham, age 69, took his own life by shooting himself in the throat. He’d received a heart transplant in 1995. Aside from being tragic, his death was strange since the person whose heart he’d been given, Tommy Cottle, killed himself in exactly the same way. Perhaps even stranger was that Sonny had even married Cottle’s wife, Cheryl, in 2004, after they’d dated for several years.
Sonny, who’d never displayed such dark tendencies before, met Cheryl after getting in touch with her several years after the transplant, wanting to express his sincere gratitude. The pair, who were almost 30 years apart in age, fell deeply in love soon after they agreed to meet. To most, they appeared happy, with friends describing Sonny as a good man and the sort of person who would gladly help someone he didn’t even know. Sonny and Cheryl had even talked about their experiences at donor-recipient conventions and fundraisers.
7 Amy Tippins Suddenly Has New Skills
Not only did 17-year-old Amy Tippins develop a sudden craving and liking for hamburgers following her successful liver transplant in 1993, but she also suddenly developed a deep sense of moral and civic duty and an appreciation for her community at large.
That wasn’t the strangest thing she noticed, however. She seemed to have new abilities as well. She noticed that she would wander into hardware stores without realizing what she was doing. Also, she knew a whole range of complex do-it-yourself skills and was physically able to carry them out.
Amy had suffered from acute liver disease, which led to her requiring a new liver. She managed to arrange a meeting with the donor’s family and learned that he was a former U.S. Marshal named Mike James. His family stated that hamburgers were one of his favorite foods, but perhaps more importantly to Amy, they said that he loved to work with his hands and had undertaken several building projects at home before his death. His family also told her that his goal in life was always to help and protect other people.
Amy believes that through the liver transplant, she has absorbed some of Mike’s personality and sense of duty, as well as some of his skills.
6 Michael Hagan Stared Crying During Movies
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Doctors should be believed, right? Even though many doctors do not think that donor recipients can take on the traits of the donors, Dr. Michael Hagan believes it happens. In fact, he says he’s living proof. Dr. Hagan was an ER physician who contracted hepatitis C at work, resulting in a liver transplant in 1999. And Dr. Hagan still disagrees with many of his colleagues. “I believe it’s real,” he said.
After healing from the surgery, Dr. Hagan noticed several odd food cravings, including avocados and barbeque. He said he never ate avocados before the transplant, but he began eating one every day. And barbeque, never really on his diet before, was one of the foods he really enjoyed afterward. But it wasn’t just food cravings that changed.
As an ER doctor, Dr. Hagan was trained to remain calm and collected, especially during stressful or traumatic situations. Emergency rooms are notoriously emotional places as patients, families, and friends cope with illness and death. After the transplant, Dr. Hagan became more emotional, even crying during nearly any movie he watched, a very drastic change to his personality.
The identity of donors is kept confidential, but Dr. Hagan later discovered Shamika Jones, a 21-year-old mother who was murdered, was his donor. The doctor attended the young woman’s trial and even met her family, with whom he formed a friendship. Dr. Hagan learned that Shamika loved avocados and barbeque—and was also a very emotional person.
5 William Sheridan Becomes an ‘Art Genius’
William Sheridan turned to drawing as a hobby to take his mind off waiting for a heart donor to become available. Truth be told, he wasn’t very good. However, one of the first things he noticed following his surgery in 2006 was that all of a sudden, his talent for art had seemingly improved tenfold.
After agreeing to meet the family of the man who had donated the heart (originally as part of a campaign to raise awareness of the need for donors), he discovered that the man, 24-year-old Keith Neville, had been a very enthusiastic artist, and he was very good too. In addition to the art skills, William felt he’d genuinely become more “caring and loving,” which he attributed to Keith.
His case is just one of several that have been studied by Professor Gary Schwartz of the University of Arizona. According to him, more and more evidence is being found that strongly suggests that organs retain cellular memories and that every organ in the body appears to do so.
4 Bill Wohl Reduced to Tears by a Song He’d Never Heard
Hardworking business executive Bill Wohl was not one for the outdoors. He preferred to roam the concrete jungle of the city as opposed to adventuring in the wilderness. That was the case until 2000 when he suffered a near-fatal heart attack. Fortunately for Bill, he received a transplant which ultimately saved his life.
He noticed nothing unusual at first, until one day, a song came on the radio that reduced him to tears for no reason he could think of. He hadn’t heard the song before and had no idea who it was. He found out that the artist was British vocalist Sade.
As his health improved following his transplant, he began to have the urge to be outdoors more and more. He engaged in increasingly challenging activities ranging from cycling to kayaking—something he had no interest in before. Perhaps he was simply enjoying a new lease of, and appreciation for, life in general.
However, when he got the chance to meet his donor’s family, Bill discovered that he was, in fact, a Hollywood stuntman named Michael Brady. Knowing this information, Bill asked Michael’s family if he had a liking for the singer Sade. They said that Sade was one of Michael’s favorite singers.
Bill, now suspecting he had more of Michael in him than just his heart, described the moment as “really, really freaky.”
3 French Actress Develops Intense Feelings of Déjà Vu
French actress Charlotte Valandrey had already overcome the numerous hurdles that life had thrown at her by the time she required a heart transplant in 2003.
In 1985, at only 17 years old and with a very promising career in front of her, she was informed that she was HIV-positive. Four years later, in 1989, she finally confided in someone about her condition, and suddenly, her promising career was looking anything but. In a book she released about her life entitled Love in the Blood, she stated that she believed she had caught the fatal disease from a French rock star but didn’t name him.
In the same book, she also wrote about her heart transplant and the effects she believed it had on her in the following months. She stated that she began to have a recurring nightmare of being in a car crash in which oncoming headlights blinded her in the rain. She also stated that her tastes had completely changed. She now had a liking for wine, whereas she had never enjoyed it before.
On a trip to India, she felt an intense feeling of deja vu everywhere she went and even recalled details of sites she hadn’t been to before. Although her doctors assured her that these were normal experiences for someone who had just undergone the procedure that she had, she insisted in her book that she believed these new feelings and memories were those of her donor.
2 Shaun Bird Develops a Talent for Cooking
Suffering from small vessel disease, Shaun Bird was facing the possibility that he would die within five years, maybe less. As his condition worsened, his skin began to take on a grey appearance, and his heart was functioning at only 20 percent. (A healthy heart would function at around 60 to 70 percent.) Then, out of the blue and literally in the middle of the night, he was called to the hospital. A donor had been found. The following day, he had a new heart and a new lease of life.
Shaun was aware that people had experienced strange personality changes and sometimes developed sudden skills attributed to their donors. Therefore, he wasn’t overly surprised when he suddenly had a constant desire to be cooking in the kitchen. He was suddenly quite an accomplished chef as well, something that he simply wasn’t before his operation, nor did he have any desire to be.
Shaun states that he not only does he feel a sense of gratitude to his donor and their family, but he wouldn’t be surprised if he shares his newfound love of cooking with them too.
1 David Waters Develops Random Craving for Burger Rings
New South Wales, Australia
David Waters, age 24, was suffering from stiffening of his heart ventricles and had only months to live when he finally received a new heart in 2006. It came courtesy of 17-year-old Kaden Delaney, who had been left on life support following a car accident. He didn’t recover, and per his wishes, his parents, Greg and Shelley Delaney, gave permission for his organs to be donated.
Greg and Shelley spent the following two years trying to contact the people who had received his organs. When they finally managed to speak with David, they discovered quite an interesting development: For no reason that David could understand, since the operation that saved his life, he had developed an intense liking for the corn-based snack Burger Rings. He told Kaden’s parents that it was the only thing he wanted to eat after his surgery.
His parents informed him that their son had, in fact, loved Burger Rings, which were one of his favorite snacks. David believes he gained this particular liking from Kaden, as he didn’t want to eat them before the transplant.