Man Who Received Heart Of Suicide Victim Goes On To Live Same Life And Die In Same Way

Sonny Graham, who received a heart transplant from a suicide victim, died in the same way.
Credit: Family Handout

Content warning: This article contains a discussion of suicide.

A man who received the heart of a suicide victim in a transplant has also gone on to take his own life.

The tragic story of a man who received a heart transplant from a suicide victim went on to mirror his life in an eery way.

The man married the donor’s widow and even went on to die in the same way years later…

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Sonny Graham, of Vidalia, Georgia, was suffering on the verge of congestive heart failure back in 1995.

But luckily, the 57-year-old became the recipient of a heart transplant.

His donor, Terry Cottle, 33, had tragically died by suicide.

Cottle had been suffering with his mental health and had argued with his wife, Cheryl Sweat, before taking his own life.

Following the successful transplant, Graham began reaching out to Cottle’s family.

Two years later, Graham met Sweat, then 28, for the first time.

Sonny Graham
Sonny Graham died in the same way as his heart transplant donor. Credit: Family Handout

“I felt like I had known her for years,” Graham told The (Hilton Head) Island Packet for a story in 2006, as per NBC. “I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. I just stared.”

After admitting he had fallen in love at first sight, Graham and Sweat eventually got together and after almost a decade following his heart transplant, Graham and Sweat tied the knot.

But tragically, at the age of 69 in 2008, 13 years on from the death of Cottle, Graham would also go on to take his own life.

In an eerie coincidence, he even used the same method as Cottle.

“Any time someone had a problem, the first reaction was, ‘Call Sonny Graham’,” Bill Carson, Graham’s friend for more than 40 years, told NBC at the time.

“It didn’t matter whether you had a flat tire on the side of the road or your washing machine didn’t work. He didn’t even have to know you to help you.”

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This sad and strange coincidence led some people online to question the existence of a ‘suicide gene’ linking Cottle and Graham.

“Sonny Graham received a transplanted heart from a suicide victim is already a pretty heavy and emotional situation, but then to go on and marry the donor’s wife and later commit suicide in the same way… it’s mind-boggling and heartbreaking all at once,” one person wrote on social media.

However, this idea has been debunked by Cottle’s sister.

“The brain is where the conscience resides, where love and loss are felt; the heart is just a pump,” she believes, as per CBS.

If you or someone you know is affected by any of the issues raised in this story, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the US at 800-273-TALK (8255) or text Crisis Text Line at 741741.

In the UK, the Samaritans is available 24/7 if you need to talk. You can contact them for free by calling 116 123, emailing [email protected] or heading to the website to find your nearest branch.

Do you have a story for us? If so, email us at [email protected]. All contact will be treated in confidence.

Written by Annie Walton Doyle

Annie Walton Doyle is a content editor at IGV who specialises in trending, lifestyle and entertainment news. She graduated from Goldsmiths, University of London, with a degree in English Literature. Annie has previously worked with organisations such as The Huffington Post, The Guardian, The Telegraph, Harvard University, the Pulitzer Prize and 22 Words.