In 2006, 53-year-old Michael Stepien was shot while being robbed in Swissvale, Pennsylvania. After dying from his wounds, Stepien’s heart was transplanted into a dying man named Arthur Thomas. Last week, Thomas walked Stepien’s daughter down the aisle during her wedding.


The story of Stepien’s heart was published in Monday’s New York Times, and is part Sparksian tearjerker (the novel would be called The Heart of the Matter) and part celebration of modern medicine.

Around the time Stepien was shot (his murderer was sentenced to 40 years in prison), Thomas “was in congestive heart failure when word arrived that his doctors had found a heart.” After the transplant surgery was completed, he and Stepien’s family got to know each other through “monthly phone calls, emails and letters,” but didn’t meet in person “until Jeni Stepien, 33, became engaged to Paul Maenner, a 34-year-old engineer, in October.”


The Times writes:

At her fiancé’s suggestion, Ms. Stepien wrote Mr. Thomas, whom the family calls Tom, asking him to walk her down the aisle. Mr. Thomas said yes, but only after running the proposition by his 30-year-old daughter, Jackie, he said.

“She said, ‘I think it’s a wonderful idea,’ ” Mr. Thomas said of his daughter, who also recommended that he start practicing walking down the aisle. (He said he practiced once before the wedding.)

If you’re not a mess (oh my god, how could you not be a mess) read this:

Mr. Thomas and the bride formally met one day earlier, when he suggested she grip his wrist, where his pulse is strongest.

“I thought that would be the best way for her to feel close to her dad,” Mr. Thomas said. “That’s her father’s heart beating.”

Photos of the wedding—including one of Stepien’s daughter touching Thomas’s chest—can be seen here. A 6-pack of tissues can be purchased here. I hope that’s enough.