CLIFTON, N.J. (RNS) Just a few moments after she met James O’Hea, Aley John leaned against him and pressed her ear to his chest. She wanted to hear her son Dennis’s heart.
“I want you all to have lives like Dennis,” she told O’Hea and four other recipients of her slain son’s organs.
The tearful first meeting on Sunday (Feb. 8) came more than two months after Dennis John Malloosseril, 25, was shot and killed inside the St. Thomas Syrian Orthodox Knanaya Church.
The recipients of Malloosseril’s heart, lungs, liver, kidneys and pancreas visited the church Sunday to thank his family and honor his life with a standing-room-only memorial service at the church.
Tributes flowed to Malloosseril’s love of family, friends and faith, with a slide show and speeches depicting a young man whose selflessness was reflected in his death. Malloosseril was shot Nov. 23 when he tried to intervene in a dispute between 24-year-old Reshma James and her estranged husband, Joseph Pallipurath.
“His motto was `Help others,’ and that’s what he did at the end,” said Malloosseril’s aunt, Suja Alummoottil. His parents had “no doubt” that he would have wanted his organs donated, she said.
“Dennis is living with them,” said his father, Abraham John.
The recipients, some wearing T-shirts emblazoned with Malloosseril’s grinning likeness, spoke of their suffering before the transplants and the relief and gratitude that followed. O’Hea, 57, of Woodbridge, said his cardiologist had said before the transplant that his congestive heart failure left him with less than a month to live.
“It goes against nature for a parent to have to bury their child, so it’s a very touching situation — emotional that way,” O’Hea said. “On the other hand, I’m alive, and I wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for Dennis.”
Since leaving the hospital in early December, O’Hea said he has made remarkable progress.
“They gave me a walker to take home and it’s sitting in my attic,” O’Hea said, adding that with such a young heart, “I got back half my life.”
Terence Begley, 39, of Edison also said he harbored “conflicting feelings” that “someone’s life had to end for me to go on.”
Begley, who received one of Malloosseril’s kidneys and his pancreas, suffered from kidney failure and had to undergo dialysis three times a week, which took five hours out of each day. A diabetic, he also injected himself with insulin after he ate.
Now he is considering graduate school.
Malta Hameed, 41, is looking forward to resuming “Grandma Day” with her grandchildren — a weekly ritual her health forced her to stop before the liver transplant, her second. John Muscarella, 22, now has Malloosseril’s lungs, and 52-year-old Migdalia Torres of Cleveland got a new kidney.
Pallipurath, 27, has been charged with murder, attempted murder and weapons offenses and is being held in lieu of $5 million bail.