Couple meets recipient of 11-year-old son's heart on their wedding day: 'To me, this is where it belongs'


A man traveled from Arkansas to Texas in order to deliver a special gift to a couple on their wedding day: the chance to hear their late son's heart beating in his chest.

Travis Stufflebean of Fayetteville was born "with a bad heart" in 1991, he told KTRK. According to Stufflebean, half of his heart did not function due to his heart condition, and he's had five open-heart surgeries throughout his life. Fox 8 reports that all five heart transplants in the past did not take.

"Colton was the sixth one," Stufflebean told KTRK.

Colton, Monica and Dean Berckenhoff's 11-year-old son, suddenly passed away in June 2012. Stufflebean, then 20, was the recipient of Colton's heart after the boy’s parents decided to donate his organs. Miraculously, Colton's heart worked in Stufflebean’s body.

"He was just the sweetest kid in the entire world and he loved football and he loved the Houston Texans," Amanda McDonald, Monica's sister and best friend, said.

In December, McDonald, along with Monica's parents, started planning to bring Stufflebean to Willis, Texas, to meet the family for the first time. The family knew they wanted it to occur on the couple's wedding day.

As Stufflebean waited in a side room, family members looked on as Monica and Dean exchanged vows. Halfway through the ceremony, McDonald announced that someone was there to see them.

Immediately upon seeing Stufflebean, who brought a stethoscope, the couple was overcome with emotion.

The parents, and now newlyweds, were able to hear their oldest son's heartbeat again. "It's been seven years [since Colton passed] and it's something we've always wanted," Monica said.

"I heard his heart," Dean said, adding that the moment brought him "closure."

For Stufflebean, it was a gift he wanted to give the couple for seven years.

"Because [I'm] bringing the heart back home," Stufflebean said. "To me, this is just a temporary heart. I'm just borrowing it. To me, this is where it belongs, with this wonderful and awesome family."

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