CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Nearly two years after receiving a life-saving heart transplant that helped him fulfill his dream on the ice, Davenport hockey player Tyler Jaenicke met the family of the man who made it possible.
Jaenicke, who suffered from disabling cardiomyopathy, received a new heart in June of 2016. Friday morning with the help of Spectrum Health, he met the family of his donor, Nicholas Britton.
“I heard his mom say hi to her son,” said Jaenicke, describing the moment JoAnne Britton used a stethoscope to listen to her son’s heart inside Jaenicke’s chest.
Nick Britton died June 18, 2016. He was 28 years old.
“He thought of others before himself,” said JoAnne Britton, who met Jaenicke at the Spectrum Health Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center, home of the Richard DeVos Heart & Lung Program.
“It was incredible,” Jaenicke said from the Patterson Ice Center locker room before Davenport University’s game against the University of Michigan. “I can’t imagine what she was going through, hearing her son’s heart beat in my chest, knowing that it was keeping me alive and being able to play the game tonight and do what I love.”
Philip and JoAnn Britton came from Aurora, Illinois to Kent County to meet Jaenicke. Their daughter, Meaganne Trela, her husband and son Bennett also made the trip.
Prior to the Panthers’ game, Bennett joined Jaenicke on the ice for a ceremonial puck drop honoring his godfather’s memory.
“To see him react and interact with Bennett the way he did, kind of putting Bennett first, it reminds us of Nick,” said his dad. “That’s another God Thing. Those attitudes are there.”
“We are one heart, two souls,” Jaenicke added.