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Patient thanks father of heart donor for 'remarkable gift'

Will Pope (L) and Steve decided to meet after emailing eachother Photo: ITV Tonight

This time last year, Will Pope met up with some friends in the run-up to Christmas, believing it could be the last time he ever saw them again.

He had suffered a severe heart attack five years before and had been on the organ donor list ever since, waiting for a life-saving match.

A few days after Christmas last year, another young man in his early twenties, Tom Ince, was driving to meet some friends. His parents Steve and Sue received a call in the early hours of December 30 saying that Tom was in hospital after losing control of his car.

Doctors told them that Tom's chances of surviving were vanishingly small, and asked if they were aware that he was on the organ register, as Steve remembers:

After some reflection, they agreed to their dying son's wish to become an organ donor.

Tom's donation allowed Will to make a full recovery, and the 21-year-old is now studying for a degree in classical civilisation at Bristol University.

Earlier this year, in a highly unusual move, Will and Steve decided to meet and for their encounter to be filmed.

Recipients do not normally know anything about their organ donors - their name, age and even gender is kept secret.

Tom Ince became Will's organ donor Credit: Family handout

But in this case, Steve had read about Will's case in the newspaper and had worked out from the timing of his operation that he was the recipient of Tom's heart.

He sent Will an email, in which he recalls writing: “I am the father of the donor of the heart you received”.

After both seeing psychologists in preparation for the meeting and following NHS guidelines, the encounter took place two weeks ago.

Steve and Will were the only people in the room. The cameras were unmanned. This is how it started:

You can watch more from their emotional meeting on ITV tomorrow at 7.30pm.

Will told Steve that he had wanted to meet him "to express just how amazing it is what you have done". He added that his gratitude was mixed with grief, knowing that someone had died to allow him to live.

Steve told Will: "I feel like it couldn’t have gone to a better person. I feel privileged that it is you."

Steve and his son Tom before the road accident Credit: Family handout

After the meeting, both Will and Steve's families met each other and talked for two hours.

Both hope the encounter will encourage others to join the donor register, and give relatives the courage to give their permission for donations to go ahead.

ITV's The Greatest Gift: Tonight is on ITV tomorrow at 7.30pm.

You can learn more about organ donation by following the links below: