After tragically losing their 14-month-old baby Beau to a drowning accident in June 2022, parents Jenny and Rob Burns have witnessed the miracle of their late son’s gifts to others, as he’s saved the lives of three people thanks to child organ donation. The couple even got to hear Beau’s heartbeat in the toddler whose life he saved, with the families now “connected forever” by their donation.
The couple told PEOPLE that they hoped for days after his drowning that Beau would pull through, but when it was clear he wouldn’t, their family members suggested his organs be donated, to help save the lives of others in need.
“My mom and my grandmother were both nurse practitioners, so I grew up in a household that was very focused on medical education and understanding the importance of decisions you make,” Rob explained. “And while it was a very tough day for us, I knew that someone was going to get that miracle phone call, so for me, it was a no-brainer.”
“It was a leap of faith,” Jenny added. “You really had to trust that the decision you’re making is for the best, and it’s so hard at that moment. You don’t know what it will be like knowing that you’re saving lives.”
They learned that in another wing of the hospital, four-month-old Eli was fighting for his life, with his mom April Flores telling the outlet that her infant son had been diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome and would not survive without a transplant. “After the transplant, it was an instantly different Eli. There was so much joy I could see through his face,” she told the outlet.
A year later, the Burns family reached out to April in the hopes of meeting Eli, where they got to hear their son’s heartbeat in the toddler he saved. “That first initial meeting, looking into Eli’s mom’s eyes and just seeing how grateful she was and then knowing that Eli’s living so well because of our decision… it was just overwhelming,” Jenny said. “Rob and I like to say it was Beau’s gift, but now it’s Eli’s heart. The heartbeat was so strong and so fast—a little boy’s heartbeat.”
“It was just an instant connection,” added Flores. “It is hard to put into words what they have done giving my son a chance at life, but we are connected forever.”
The Burns family has also met with Leonel, the 4-year-old recipient of Beau’s liver, as well as his mother, Ginamarie Rodriguez. “Leonel was born with Citrullinemia Type 1, which can lead to a coma, brain damage or death,” Rodriguez told PEOPLE. “I don’t know how to explain it, but it felt like family,” says Rodriguez. “Going through everything we both went through, we’re all grieving. I’ll be forever thankful to them.”
“Leonel is so beautiful,” Jenny said. “He’s just this rambunctious little 4-year-old, and it was so good seeing him just laugh and live so loud.”
“I don’t know what it is with these women, but we have this amazing bond,” she added. “Both Ginamarie and April are going to be in our lives forever, and I get two more sons.”
The couple also welcomed son Jack in October 2023, with their 10-year-old daughter Emma settling back into her role as big sister. Jenny calls Ginamarie and April her “sisters for life,” calling the couple’s choice to donate Beau’s organs “the best decision I’ve ever made in my life.” She also now advocates for child organ donation, describing it as her new “purpose in life.”