They say that family is the tie that binds. For the Blemler family, nothing could be more accurate.
In late 2005, Frank Blemler couldn't breathe and was rushed to the hospital. It was discovered he had two collapsed lungs, heart failure, and a very rare virus that shut his body down. Although he regained his health, his kidneys never recovered. In 2006, his mother donated her kidney, which would last him 13 years.
Fast forward to December of 2018, Frank thought he had the flu. Instead, he learned his kidneys once again were failing. That's when his brother Jonathan stepped up.
"It was second nature to me. I didn't hesitate to get tested and see if I could be the donor,” he said."
They were a perfect match.
"I was at work when he called me and said he had some good news. I almost broke down, I was so happy, " Frank said.
On January 22, 2019, Frank received his brother's kidney.
Having been through this process in the past, the entire family rallied around one another, along with friends and the medical team.
"My experience was great. Dr. Yang and Danielle Ladie were my surgeons and they explained what would happen. They wanted to make sure I knew what to do to keep this kidney as healthy as possible", Frank said. "If I needed help or anything at all, they were there."
Frank's gratitude for his family's support and sacrifices is immeasurable. Previously restricted from certain food, drinks, and activities while on dialysis, he now embraces life and its normalcy thanks to his brother's donation.
"I finally can do what I love and work on vehicles, cut firewood. I work in a quarry making sand and stone. My restrictions are gone", he said.
For Jonathan, his love of motor cross racing didn't outweigh his love for his brother. A hobby since he was 13, Jonathan was told he no longer could race after his donation and sacrificed one of his passions to ensure his brother's health.
Grateful to have been born healthy, he says this experience opened his eyes in a different way and he decided to become an organ donor after he passes away. He also believes if someone needs something, they should have access to it.
"It is amazing there is technology and doctors who can take something out of someone and put it in someone else. And as a result, both can live a happy, healthy life."
Frank embraces his brother's idea that one should live life to the fullest.
"After going through everything I did, it's clear we should be thankful for our friends and family. It could all be taken away at any moment."
UPMC Central Pa. Portal provides patients across the central Pennsylvania region with secure access to their health information. It is the fastest way to send a message to your doctor, refill prescriptions, get test results, and schedule and manage appointments, including video visits.Log-In or Sign Up Today
When it comes to health care for you and your family, UPMC is here. It's easy to find the right doctor, health screenings and programs, classes and more.Contact