“Just hugging him made me feel like I was close to my dad again”
Image via YouTube
Some women dream about their wedding days their entire lives, from the time they are young girls to the moment the big day finally arrives.
For Pittsburgh native Jeni Stepien, anticipation of her wedding day has been building not just since she was a little girl, but even more so over the past 10 years.
When Jeni’s father, Michael Stepien, was murdered in 2006, her dream of having her father walk her down the aisle would sadly no longer be fulfilled.
On Saturday, however, Jeni had the surreal experience of walking down the aisle with the man who now lives with her father’s healthy heart. An organ donor, Michael Stepien’s heart was received by Arthur Thomas, a New Jersey man who had been waiting 16 years for a transplant.
The Stepien family stayed in contact with Thomas over the last decade, but it wasn’t until the day before Jeni’s wedding that they had the chance to meet the man who now carries Michael’s heart. Jeni shared with CBS, “We’ve been talking to him and writing letters and calling and receiving flowers and sending gifts for the past 10 years, and now it’s finally here.”
Her sister, Michelle, said, “Just hugging him made me feel like I was close to my dad again, which on this day, was perfect. It was what I needed.” Although Thomas has a daughter of his own, Jeni Stepien is the first woman he’s had the honor of walking down the aisle. Of being asked to share the special moment, he said:
“Jeni wrote me a letter and she said ‘Dear Tom, I’m the daughter of the man who’s heart is inside of you and I’m gonna get married on August 6th. And one further thing if you’re willing, would you walk me down the aisle?’”
Thanks to the special bond between two families, an already-emotional day was made even more memorable, of which Jeni said, “It’s just like having my dad here, and better because we get to share this story with people and other people see that organ donors do matter.”