Have a Heart: How a Heart Keeps Beating After a Father’s Death: Gratitude in Action

“Who knows what tomorrow brings, In a world few hearts survive?” – Joe Cocker, Up Where We Belong

This lyric rings true when you consider Michael Stepien’s heart’s destiny. In September of 2006, the 53-year old head chef was walking home from work after a typical night shift. As he cut through an alley,  he was robbed at gunpoint and then shot in the head at close range by a 16-year old gunman. As Mr. Stepien lay dying in the hospital, his family decided to donate his organs through an organization called the Center for Organ Recovery and Education. The organization arranges for donor families and recipients to keep in touch with each other after any transplant procedure.

Mr. Stepien’s heart went to 62-year old Arthur Thomas,  who was given a diagnosis of ventricular tachycardia 16 years earlier and had been in a state of congestive heart failure when he heard that his doctors had found him a donor. After the transplant, he wrote a letter to the Stepien family expressing his gratitude for the family’s decision to donate their father’s heart.

Over the course of ten years a relationship continued through monthly phone calls, emails and letters. The families had never met in person until Jeni Stepien, 33 became engaged to Paul Maenner, 34 in October. When Jeni wondered who would walk her down the aisle, Paul suggested that Athur  do the honor. Jeni wrote to him and he agreed, fulfilling her wish, “to have a physical piece of my father there.”

At the wedding, Arthur suggested that Jeni grip his wrist as they walked down the aisle together, where his pulse beats the strongest. “That’s her father’s heart beating,” Mr. Thomas said. Jeni’s father was there, too.


Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/09/fashion/weddings/bride-is-walked-down-aisle-by-the-man-who-got-her-fathers-donated-heart.html

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