In the "one-off situation" Freda Carter told how she came across her son's anonymous transplant recipient at a memorial service and became hysterical when she realised who he was.
Freda and her husband John lost their son, also John, to a brain tumour when he was 33, and had given permission for some of his organs, including his heart, to be donated.
They were given only the recipient's first name, Scott, and when Freda saw a Scott listed to sing at a memorial service for organ donors last November, she said her maternal instinct kicked in and she knew it was him.
"When I sat down and turned the page on the order of service and saw his name, there a strange feeling came over me," the 66-year-old from Sunderland said. "I knew he was the recipient of John's heart."
Scott Rutherford, who was 14 when he had the transplant, said he was eternally grateful for the donation, and allowed Mrs Carter to feel her son's beating heart.
She said: "My dying wish was to meet the boy who got his heart and to feel our John's [heart] beat again."