Woman Donates Late Teen Daughter's Heart to Save Friend's Life

"You’ll always have my baby with you," the grieving mother told her friend.

February 3, 2016, 4:00 PM

— -- When 49-year-old Vicki Olds' daughter, Domonique "Nikki" Smith, unexpectedly died at age 18 in June 2015, the grieving mother immediately offered to donate Nikki's heart to her friend, Tanisha Basham.

Basham, who was suffering from congestive heart failure, had been on a waiting list for a new heart for 18 months, according to the Advocate Heart Institute at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Illinois.

"I was overwhelmed,” Basham, 41, said in a press release. Though she didn't want to accept the generous donation at first, Olds insisted and told her, 'Tanisha, you’re like my sister. You’ll always have my baby with you.'"

Basham was then immediately admitted for a direct transplantation surgery performed by Dr. Antone Tatooles and Dr. Patroklos "Pat" Pappas, according to the medical center.

Vicki Olds is pictured with her daughter, Nikki Smith, in an undated handout photo.
The Advocate Heart Institute at Christ Medical Center

"Before this, I had never heard of anyone receiving a directed heart organ donation," Tatooles said in the release. "To lose your daughter and yet use that tragic event to save lives though organ donation is incredibly generous. There is no better gift than giving someone the gift of life."

The heart saved Basham's life.

Basham keeps Nikki's photo as a screensaver on her phone as a "constant reminder of who gave her a second chance at life," the medical center said.

Nikki Smith poses for a photo on the day of her high school graduation.
The Advocate Heart Institute at Christ Medical Center

The medical center added that when Basham goes to her frequent echocardiogram appointments, Olds accompanies her "so she can see her daughter’s heart beating in the body of her friend."

"I carried Nikki for nine months, and Tanisha’s going to carry her for the rest of her life," Olds said in the release. "When I was living through my worst nightmare on the worst day of my life, I chose to preserve the lives of others."

In all, Smith's donated organs saved the lives of four other individuals, including another family friend who received a kidney, according to the medical center.