Local mother shares Christmas with teen who has her son's heart

NEWNAN, Ga. — A Coweta county mother who lost her teenage son spent Christmas with the boy who wouldn't be alive without her son's heart.

Channel 2's Matt Johnson learned the decision to donate his organs has built a unique bond.

Janece Risty visits her son Tyler's bedroom when she misses him the most.

“It will probably stay this way, just because this was so Tyler,” Risty said.

The snowboards on the wall, the photographs he took, his collection of books - all little pieces that help fill the void that he left when he died two years ago at the age of 16.

“I give thanks to God every day that I had Tyler, as long as I had him,” Risty said.

Janice Risty and her son Tyler.

Tyler was a healthy and active Coweta county high school student, who was a devout Christian and dreamed of working for NASA.

Then one day in 2014 he collapsed.

“He was fine all day then all of a sudden he complained of a headache and started to seize and became unresponsive,” Risty said.

It's still a mystery what caused his brain to suffer the massive bleeding that lead to his death a week later on a Wednesday.


Even though he had collapsed, he never stopped building a legacy.

“All these kids went to the youth group Wednesday night to celebrate his life and 30 kids gave their lives to Christ that night,” Risty said.

But his mother knew there was even more ways for her son not only to change lives but to save lives.

“At that point I decided we need to make him an organ donor,” Risty said.

His organs, bone and tissue went to 23 people across the country, including Lance Frye, who was in desperate need of a new heart.

“I would probably be dead,” Frye said.

The 19-year-old born with a congenital heart defect spoke to Johnson over FaceTime from his Pittsburgh home.

He said he wouldn't be here without Tyler’s heart.

‘It doesn’t just save your life, now I can do things I couldn't do with the heart I was born with,” Frye said.

Tyler was a student at Northlake High School in Newnan. It’s one of the places saw when he spent time with Tyler's family for Christmas.

“I think it helps to know that this heart came from such a wonderful family and such a wonderful kid,” Frye said.

Risty said it's fitting that Tyler’s big heart keeps bringing people together - especially on Christmas.

“I think it will bring joy into my home and that’s what Christmas is about, Christ, and having life after death with him,” Risty said.