The Impact Of Donating A Heart

A family dealing with loss, finds happiness in meeting their loved one's donor recipient

A family going through the loss of a loved one is hard enough, and deciding whether to donate that person’s organs can make things even more difficult.

But a family with ties here in Sioux Falls has learned the benefit of donating can ease the heartache.

“When the nurse hands you the stethoscope and says here do you want to listen to the heart, I didn’t want to,” says Roger Risty of Sioux Falls.

It’s not an easy situation: being face to face with a person who is now using your loved one’s heart.

“But then when you hear it and you heard how nice and strong that heartbeat was, and you go alright, this is my grandson and this young man is alive because of my grandson,” says Roger.

Roger and his wife Julie lost their grandson, Tyler in April of 2014.

“Tyler was always a very intelligent, very caring, very outgoing person,” says Julie.

The 16-year-old suffered from an unexpected massive brain bleed.

“We were in the hospital and in intensive care with him for 9 days and during that period of time it became evident that he was not going to survive that,” she adds.

It was his mom, Janece Ristys’ decision then to donate Tyler’s organs.

Two years later, she decided she wanted to meet the heart recipient.

“It gave me a lot of joy knowing that we helped save his life,” says the mom.

19-year-old Lance Frye has had three reconstructive surgeries in his life.

He couldn’t retain protein so the ability to gain and keep weight was impossible — until he got Tyler’s heart.

“It’s improved my quality of life, it’s improved relationships, it’s improved the fact that I’m allowed to go out on my own and do normal teenage stuff,” says Lance.

He says he grateful the Risty’s wanted to meet him.

“I think it’s just good to know that there was a driving force behind it,” says Lance. “To know where the heart came from, what the good thought was towards it and how the family made that decision and why you are alive today really.”

As happy as Lance is to have a new heart, the Risty’s are just as happy to have met Tyler’s recipient.

“Your loved one life goes on, in a way and at the same time I thought this is Lance’s heart now, God made a heart for two,” says Julie.

Both families now consider each other family after the trip.

Lance and his parents plan to meet up with Janece this Christmas in Georgia.

And this is only one recipient’s story.

In total, Tyler’s organs and bone tissue have benefited 23 people.

“If there’s a message to be had here, it’s that organ transplants and organ donations are extremely important,” says Julie. “Yes it’s a tragedy on one end, but it’s a miracle on the other end. Transplants and organ donations do save lives.”