Recipient Stories - Frank Young

In Ohio, when a 6’ 4” former college football player looks you in the eye and starts talking about heroes, you’re inclined to listen.

When you realize he speaks with great humility, reverence and wonder about heroes who save and transform lives, you’re captivated.

And when you figure out that nearly anyone could become a hero for this special man, an athlete once coached by Jim Tressel, you count your blessings and ask yourself what it takes to become a registered organ donor.

In 1994, a college student named Franklin Young played on a Youngstown State University national championship football team. When his playing days were over, Frank learned he had diabetes and later transferred to the University of Cincinnati to study forensic psychology. He graduated and got a job as a juvenile corrections officer for Hamilton County.

In 2002, Frank learned he had suffered a back injury that resulted in debilitating nerve damage. A herniated disc had calcified, and Frank had surgery that relieved pain and enabled mobility. He moved back to the Cleveland area for care from his mother and other family members. An aunt encouraged Frank to attend a church social where he met his future wife Nicole on a singles dinner cruise. Nicole is a graduate of Ohio University who majored in psychology and earned her masters degree in education at Cleveland State. She is currently a full-time instructional designer and creates training and education programs for Progressive Insurance’s leaders and management personnel.

In 2005, early in a new marriage, the couple went out to dinner one evening.Frank became violently ill. A week later he was admitted to Hillcrest Hospital and spent the next six weeks hospitalized. After four weeks of extensive testing andsymptom management, medical specialists still called Frank’s case a medical enigma.  

The very ill football hero considered the possibility of never being discharged to home again. “I resolved that same day that I’d trust in God to pull me through the ordeal,” Frank says.

The next day Frank had a kidney biopsy that allowed doctors to identify the genetic marker for systemic lupus erythematosus, referred to as either“SLE” or simply “lupus.” That disease process had significantly impaired Frank’s kidney function and continued to attack those organs, which shut down completely in July 2012.  

“I have been on dialysis since that time, and in 2014 I began waiting on a kidney for transplant,” says the likable 39-year-old Frank today. Frank describes systemic lupus as a condition where one’s antibodies do not recognize but instead attack healthy tissue, resulting in a cycle of cellular self-destruction.

Between diagnosis with lupus and being listed to receive a new kidney, Frank learned that the nerve damage from his old back injury had progressed to a point where he needed a below-the-knee leg amputation to be healthy enough for transplant. He and Nicole conquered this challenge together, too, while both working for Progressive. They agree their company was very supportive and accommodating of Frank’s needs.  

The home hemodialysis that has sustained Frank for the past two years is aseven-and-a-half hour process occurring five days a week. 

Highland Hills residents Frank and Nicole remain grateful, positive and hopeful, both still helping others whenever possible. They enjoy life with their two boxers, 6-year-old Layla and 4-year-old Vander.  

Radiating peace and joy, Frank volunteers at his church and as a mentor and tutor at Shaker Heights Middle School. He currently cannot work, but he witnesses for Lifebanc while he waits for the gifts of long-term survival and health from a kidney donor.

Lifebanc, the organ procurement organization in northeast Ohio, reports that nearly 125,000 people are awaiting transplants in the United States. In Ohio, there are more than 3,500 people on the national waiting list. Approximately 2,000 live right here in northeast Ohio.

Millions more suffer with conditions that can be successfully treated with donated tissue and corneas.

Every 10 minutes a new name is added to the national waiting list. On average, 22 people in the U.S. will die today because an organ isn’t available in time.One organ donor can save eight lives, while one tissue donor can enhance the lives of more than 50 people. Organ and tissue donation takes place only after all efforts to save your life have failed and your family has been consulted.

In Ohio, your decision to be a registered organ, eye and tissue donor makes your donor designation legally binding. This being said, the conversation about donation will be much easier for your loved ones if you yourself have made your end-of-life wishes known to them. Most people that become eligible donors do so as a result of a sudden, traumatic event, and many donor families report that donation has given some meaning to their unforeseen loss.

Donation costs nothing to the donor's family or estate. Lifebanc or the organ procurement organization of the region is responsible for all costs related to the donation process.Race, age, religion, income and celebrity status are not considered when determining who receives an organ. In fact, it is a federal crime to buy or sell organs in the United States. Donor organs are matched to potential recipients for tissue type, size, medical urgency, time on waiting list and geographic location. This matching process occurs using a UNOS-operated national computerized waiting list. 

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