One Family's Pain and Loss are Four Other Families' Gain

December 10, 2017 11:43 PM

(ABC 6 News) --  Music pours out of the dining room at the Gift of Life Transplant House. It’s no ordinary occasion.

A dinner was held to connect a donor family with two recipient families.


Tommy Frankel, now fondly remembered by family and friends, was born and raised in Rochester.

“He suffered from depression so we lost him October 20th, 2016,” said his mother, Amalie Frankel.

He was only 26 years old at the time of his passing. But in his death ... there was life.

Tom was an organ donor. His organs saved four people (and his tissues enhanced the lives of many more).

One of his recipients is Steve Shank. Because of his Albinism, Shank was born legally blind. He also developed Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome. It caused scarring in his lungs and he had to be hospitalized in the summer of 2016. On life support and at death's door, Shank got the double lung transplant he desperately needed on October 23rd, 2016. His first words to his wife after surgery were “It's so easy to breath”.

Steve Wiese jokes about being Steve Shank’s brother. They share more than just the same first name, they share the same donor.

Wiese got Tommy’s heart after suffering from Viral Cardiomyopathy. Because of Tommy...

“I have a life,” said Shank. “He [Tommy] had struggles with his life, but I am going to live life for both of us.”

Seeing two of Tommy's recipients is a blessing that helps the Frankels cope.

“Lung Steve has lungs that will help his belly laugh and play with his kids just like Tommy would have liked to,” said Tommy’s sister, Lizzie Frankel, “and heart Steve has a heart that's going to pump hard and help him run and play with his grandkids.”

The connection between the three families will not easily be severed.

In the gift-giving season, they want everyone to understand the greatest gift of all. The gift of life.

“That's the only gift,” said Amalie. “That's the only light that helps through these tragedies.”



Hannah Tiede

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