Seven months ago, life stopped for a 17-year-old high school football player from Spokane.
Drew Swank took a blow to the head during a football game, and never woke up.
“It was a really hard hit,” said father Don Swank.
“He just said, ‘My head hurts,'” said mother Patti Swank. “And his dad was trying to take his helmet off, and he said, ‘Dad, don’t take my helmet off. I’m going to throw up.’ And that was it. He collapsed.
“They tried everything they could, but they couldn’t …”
Drew Swank’s death in Spokane had a far-reaching effect. Some 350 miles away in Yelm, Lee Blumenthal got a second chance at life. He’s the recipient of the teen’s heart.
“I’d like to meet his family someday so they can feel my chest, feel his heart, know he’s still alive in me,” said Blumenthal.
Before the transplant, a mechanical heart kept Blumethal alive. Now, he stops several times every day to think about the boy who brought him back to life, and gave his three sons a father.
“I’d tell him I love him. ‘Thank you for the heart,'” the recipient said.
The story of the teen’s sudden death resonated all the way in the Fletcher family’s home in Port Angeles.
“I couldn’t quit reading this story,” said Teres Fletcher, a mother who has a son about Drew Swank’s age.
Fletcher said she was reading an article on Drew Swank when the phone rang. The very boy she was reading about was also going to be her son’s savior.
Austin Fletcher spent two years on the liver transplant wait list before he received Drew Swank’s.
“It means life. I got a second chance at life,” said the boy.
“I say our kids, Austin and Drew, knew each other in heaven, and Drew said, ‘I’ve got your back, Austin.’ And he did. He really came through for him,” said Teres Fletcher.
“He (Drew Swank) was kind of like me, played in the dirt a lot, just a sweet boy,” said Austin Fletcher.
“I wanted to be able to say thank you,” Teres Fletcher said.
Drew Swank would have turned 18 on May 4.
The Fletcher family drove eight hours to Spokane to help the Swank family celebrate their son’s life, and his gifts of life.
For the teen’s grieving sisters, the meeting with Austin Fletcher was a blessing their brother left behind.
“I just stare at him and get tears in my eyes, because I know that there’s a part of my brother inside of him that’s making him live a fulfilled life. It’s incredible,” said Tara Swank.
“We all look forward to the day we can be with Drew,” said Drew Swank’s sister, Nicole Albright. “Drew, we love you and you will always be in our hearts.”