Almost ten years ago, Jeni Stepien lost her father, Michael Stepien who was killed after a robber shot him in his head. As her father lay dying in the hospital, her family decided to donate his organs.
Mr Stepien’s organs were donated through an organisation called the Centre for Organ Recovery and Education. The organisation allows donor families and the organ recipients to keep in touch with one another after the transplant.
His heart went to Arthur Thomas, a father of four who lives in Lawrenceville, New Jersey
“In order to get to the top of the transplant list, you have to be really hurting,” Mr. Thomas said. “Once I had my transplant, I, of course, decided I would write a thank-you to the family.”
What was initially a simple thank-you note then turned into a lifetime relationship as Mr. Thomas and the Stepiens frequently contacted each other through monthly phone calls, emails and letters. Even though they had never met one another after the transplant, it was all about to change when Jeni Stepien, 33, became engaged to Paul Maenner, 34, in October
“One of my first thoughts in that following week was, ‘Who will walk me down the aisle?’ ” Ms. Stepien said. “I was thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, it would be so incredible to have a physical piece of my father there.’ ”
At her fiancé’s suggestion, Ms Stepien wrote a letter to Mr Thomas, asking him if he would like to walk her down the aisle. Mr Thomas said yes to Ms Stepien’s request after he asked his 30-year-old daughter, Jackie.
“She said, ‘I think it’s a wonderful idea,’ ” Mr. Thomas said of his daughter, who also recommended that he start practicing walking down the aisle.
Mr Thomas and Ms Stepien met a day earlier before the wedding took place on Saturday August 6 in the church in Swissvale where Ms Stepien’s parents were married.
Before the wedding, Mr Thomas suggested that Ms Stepien gripped his wrist, where his pulse is the strongest.
“I thought that would be the best way for her to feel close to her dad,” Mr. Thomas said. “That’s her father’s heart beating.”
The two families said that they have plans to keep in touch with one another in the future as well as planning a get-together one day
“I felt wonderful about bringing her dad’s heart to Pittsburgh,” Mr. Thomas said. “If I had to, I would’ve walked.”
Source: New York Times