‘I got my heart’: Woman’s death unites two families through one heart

Nicollena Cabello Hartzell passed away suddenly in 2018 but her heart continues to bring life to others. (Source: WOWT)
Published: Apr. 21, 2022 at 6:29 PM EDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT/Gray News) - The death of an Omaha-area woman is helping bring two families together four years later.

WOWT reports Nicollena Cabello Hartzell died when she was just 33-years-old. She was an organ donor, however, and her heart is now helping another man live.

Her parents, Brian and Sandra Cabello, said their daughter grew up, graduated and joined the Army. But she passed away suddenly when she returned home in 2018.

Florida resident Richard Arce said he received Hartzell’s heart later that year and wouldn’t be alive now without it.

“Two families are going to be united as a family, you know,” Arce said. “I’m just so grateful. If it wasn’t for their daughter, I wouldn’t even be here today.”

Arce recently made the trip to Nebraska to meet Hartzell’s family and to say thank you.

“Does thank you really mean anything? It does. Is there a better word? There’s not. The fact of the matter is, we met — finally. I think that that is the thank you, the gift,” Arce said.

The families united in person for the first time.

“It’s just like having her here, having her here next to us,” Sandra Cabello said.

Arce brought a gift with him, a heart-shaped crystal.

“It says, ‘The beat goes on. Grateful and thankful for the gift of life. Richard and Nicollena. I got my heart on 4/22/2018 at 3:30 p.m.,’” Arce said.

Master quilter Connie Rose also stepped in to help preserve a blanket made by Hartzell’s grandmother that her family said their daughter cherished.

Brian Cabello said he has waited for a long time to hear from his daughter again and now her heartbeat is helping bring new life to her family.

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