A Pennsylvania bride who lost her father to tragedy 10 years ago found herself walking down the aisle with the man who received his heart.
Jeni Stepien was unable to hold back tears when she embraced Arthur Thomas for the first time Friday and felt her father’s heart beating inside him, Pittsburgh TV station KDKA reported.
“Can you feel it?” Thomas asked her. She tearfully held his wrist and chest and quietly nodded.
Stepien’s father, Michael Stepien, was killed in a 2006 robbery when she was 23. After he spent 24 hours on life support, the family accepted the inevitable and donated his organs, according to Stepien’s Knot wedding profile.
At that time, Thomas of New Jersey had been waiting for a heart transplant for 16 years, KDKA reported. The Christmas following his transplant he wrote to Stepien’s family thanking them for what they had done.
The families kept in touch through letters over the years but it wasn’t until Friday ― one day before the Pittsburgh wedding ― that they finally met face to face.
Thomas made his special appearance after Stepien wrote to him and asked if he’d do her the honor of giving her away, he told the station. After he secured his own daughter’s permission, it was a go.
“I’m so excited. The whole family is here now. It’s like everybody is here,” Stepien told KDKA.
In sharing her story, she said she hopes it sends a message to others: “Organ donors do matter.”
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