When you work guest relations at a stadium that hosts more than 70,000 people in a setting, you’re going to get the full gamut of personalities: the good, the bad, the ugly.
Sunday night, before Sir Elton John took the stage at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, I met two beautiful people who shared the story of one very special gift.
Steve Hilfiker and Vannessa Blais had come to the concert together and I greeted them as they entered the stadium atop my usual Section 123. They shared with me their mutual bond: that being the heart that beat in Steve’s chest.
Steve, who lives in Fort Myers, Fla., is a transplant survivor and the heart that’s kept him alive these past few years is that of Vannessa’s brother, Daniel, a North Carolina man who passed away in 2020. The matching shirts that they wore to Sunday’s concert read: The Daniel Foundation.
Steve has made it his mission to raise awareness about cardiac sarcoidosis, the disease that very nearly took his life, and promote more effective methods for early detection and treatment of CS. His story is shared in the short documentary, “Stoneheart: An Undying Gift,” screened at this year’s Cannes International Film Festival.
Both Steve and Vannessa said it’s important to tell of the importance of organ donation and share the message of hope.
Steve mentioned the words in Elton John’s hit song, aptly titled “Daniel,” that holds a special meaning to him.
""Do you still feel the pain, of the scars that won't heal? Your eyes have died, but you see more than I. Daniel, you're a star in the face of the sky."
Around Steve’s neck hung a stethoscope. He said that when Sir Elton would sing “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” Vannessa would place the stethoscope to Steve’s chest and listen to the sound of her brother’s heart, still beating, still there, still present.
And later Sunday night, under a dark, starless sky, I listened to Elton’s voice and thought of Vannessa and the stethoscope pressed against Steve’s chest, and I marveled at the good we can do, the generous we can be, and the moments we miss if we just don’t stop and listen.
Someone saved my life tonight.