Andie Kay Joyner was already a miracle. She was the first person to receive a heart and liver transplant at the same time from a single donor at UT Southwestern in Dallas. But the woman from Wills Point, Texas, who celebrated her return to the country music stage a year after that transplant, had one more journey she needed to make.
She needed to find the family of the "angel" who saved her life.
"Tubes and lines coming out of my body," she said of her first memories waking up from the two surgical procedures. "And I'm lying there curious about who this is inside of me that's keeping me alive."
It's a conversation I had with Andie Kay as we drove from north Texas to Nacodoches where the family of her donor had agreed to meet. With the help of the Southwest Transplant Alliance she learned her donor was a man named Steven Dominy. The 40-year-old from Kirbyville, Texas died in a car crash on an east Texas highway. His decision to be an organ donor saved Andie Kay and four other people. And he was a man whose children, a son named Tyson and daughters Reagan and Ramsey, also wanted to know who their angel had saved.
"I'm ready to meet them. I've been ready for a long time," Andie Kay said as she and several members of her family and a large group of friends arrived at a restaurant in Nacodoches. "I just want them to feel peace and comfort and hold the memories they have of their father forever. Meeting his children today means everything to me."
When Andie Kay and Reagan Dominy, 17, and Ramsey Dominy, 15, met for the first time, the hugs were somewhat tentative and awkward at first.
"Y'all are beautiful," Andie Kay told them. "I'm shaking," she admitted. "And it's not because it's cold outside."
But then, at a long banquet room table, the families talked for more than an hour. Andie Kay gave the girls a stethoscope so they could hear their dad's heart. The Dominy family gave Andie Kay a framed photo of Steven Dominy and his family Bible.
"The first time I saw his face I fell in love," Andie Kay told them. "To put a face with this," she said touching her chest, "it was everything."
Which led to an afternoon of stories and tears, even shared laughter.
"I felt alive," Andie Kay told them when the Dominy girls asked for details of the surgery. "That's all I could have asked for at that moment. I felt alive."
Andie Kay suffered from hemochromatosis, an imbalance of iron levels in her blood that was slowly destroying her own heart and liver.
"I think she's just been a missing piece of our lives for two years," Reagan Dominy said of the desire to meet Andie Kay.
And then Reagan asked for a favor to help replace one more missing piece that she thought only her dad could fill.
Which is why after 100 miles more, Andie Kay was in Kirbyville with two more important people to meet: Stacy Dominy, the donor's only sister and Sharon Dominy, the mom who lost her only son.
"I didn't know how I'd react to her," Sharon Dominy said. "It's like meeting your child. I feel like I'm meeting my child. Because she is in a way my child."
The Dominys both wept when they were also given a chance to listen to Steven Dominy's heart.
"And I only felt love for her. I only felt love for her," Sharon Dominy said of the emotional meeting.
"It's difficult because he is not here," Stacy Dominy said of her late brother. "But the happiness, the joy that you get from knowing that this precious woman was on her death bed literally. And is now walking and talking and healthy and happy and able to be here."
"I wish I could have gotten to meet him," Andie Kay cried as she embraced the Dominys.
"I've never seen you before but you feel like family. We're family now. Is that weird," said Sharon Dominy.
"Should I call you Mrs. Dominy," Andie Kay asked as they hugged.
"No you can call me Sharon, or Mimi or whatever you want to call me," Sharon Dominy said. "Hopefully it's nice," she laughed.
"I'll just call you Momma," Andie Kay answered.
"Oh there you go," Sharon Dominy replied as they hugged again.
But the favor Andie Kay drove half-way across Texas to keep was on the football field. November 9th was Senior Night at Kirbyville High School. The Kirbyville tradition is for the parents of the seniors to walk them across the 50 yard line before the game as an announcer reads their names and accomplishments. Reagan, the valedictorian, didn't have her dad to walk her across the field. But she had his heart. Steven Dominy was also a Kirbyville High School graduate. Andie Kay wore his letterman's jacket. And arm-in-arm she and Reagan walked across the field together.
"Tonight she has a very special escort," the stadium announcer said. "Her dad's heart and liver recipient Andie Kay Joyner. Her dad's heart is with her tonight."
"I would drop anything to be there for those kids. We might have just met once but I just have a love for them," Andie Kay said. "It would be an amazing feeling to walk her anywhere. Their father he walks with me every day. He wakes me up in the morning and he's the reason that I'm still here. He's the reason for everything for me. I would do anything for him and I would do anything for his children. I'm here for them always."
"Yeah she'll be at a lot of our stuff from now on. She'll be at everything. We're gonna force her," Reagan Dominy laughed. "A lifetime. She's not getting away from us," Reagan said as she and her sister Ramsey stood with Andie Kay, their arms linked on the sidelines of the football field.
"That makes me very happy," Andie Kay replied. "Forever. I love you girls."
Two families linked forever with a promise to honor the angel they now share.