After a transplant process has been completed The Center For Organ Donation Recovery and Education is a group that helps donor families and organ recipients to communicate afterward.
Jeni Stepien’s father, Michael was killed during a robbery and his family donated his heart.
Arthur Thomas received Michael’s heart. Before his transplant, Mr. Thomas was just days from death.
He noted, “In order to get to the top of the transplant list, you have to be really hurting. Once I had my transplant, I, of course, decided I would write a thank-you to the family.”
The relationship between Thomas and Michael’s family grew after the first communication with each other.
They had yet to meet in person but they reached out via email, monthly calls, and letters but that soon changed once Jeni became engaged.
Ms. Stephen comments “One of my first thoughts in that following week was, ‘Who will walk me down the aisle? I was thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, it would be so incredible to have a physical piece of my father there.’ ”
Thomas received a letter asking if he’d walk her down the aisle on her special day.
Since he wanted permission he consulted his 30-year-old daughter, Jackie.
Thomas spoke of Jackie’s response, “She said, ‘I think it’s a wonderful idea.’”
One day before the wedding ceremony the two met, where Thomas suggested the bride-to-be grip his wrist so she could feel his pulse.
Mr. Thomas explains “I thought that would be the best way for her to feel close to her dad. That’s her father’s heart beating.”
The families plan to stay in touch in the future. “I felt wonderful about bringing her dad’s heart (from New Jersey) to Pittsburgh. If I had to, I would’ve walked,” said Mr. Thomas.
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