By Selene Raj
In 2019, Coral Springs Talk published a story about an employee with the City of Coral Springs who was in desperate need of a new kidney. It was shared far and wide, and since then, he’s found a donor match and received an organ transplant.
The story featured Coral Springs resident Frank Molino, 58, who was in end-stage renal failure requiring dialysis seven days a week, and his quest to find an organ donor.
For 36 years, Frank has worked for the City of Coral Springs, currently as parks and recreation coordinator. No one in his family was a match, so his wife, Helene Molino, 56, shared the story with as many people as possible in hopes that he’d find a donor.
“After the story went out, I had it posted everywhere. Someone contacted me,” said Helene.
That person was a 36-year-old NICU nurse, Brunna Martins. Born in Brazil and raised in Florida, the Fort Lauderdale resident saw the story and felt compelled to do something she had never previously considered.
“The reason the story resonated with me is that he has two kids,” said Martins, “I have an amazing father, and Frank reminded me so much of my dad.”
Martins said, tearfully, if she lost her father prematurely, she wouldn’t be okay, and she didn’t want his children to be without him. She worked at Broward General Medical Center, downstairs from Helene, but the two had never met. Though she did not know the family, she reached out to help, understanding that it might be a long shot that they matched.
Throughout the process, Martins and the the couple avoided meeting, deciding to wait until they were confident it would all work out with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But, they kept in contact regularly, texting daily with Martins keeping them updated every step of the way until it was officially confirmed she was a match for Frank.
Three days before the scheduled surgery, they met for the first time.
“When I met him, it was just meant to be,” said Martins.
Frank said that he broke down a bit when meeting her and asked, ‘How do you thank someone for saving your life?’
“You just did,” she said.
Of all the hospitals that performed organ transplants, the couple found Advent Health in Orlando was best for them and moved forward with that option.
On October 7, 2020, less than a year after the story went public, they had a successful kidney transplant without complications. Martins stayed a week with the couple after the surgery, and nearly four months later, she feels completely recovered.
“What an angel that was sent to us,” Helene said.
Since then, they still keep in touch, and Frank is still working for the city.
“I’m doing great, all my numbers are great, and I graduated from the hospital two weeks ago,” he said.
They decided to name the donated kidney “Katie,” and now, every time Martins checks in with Frank, she asks him how Katie is doing, and he tells her she’s doing great.
In a strange coincidence, Frank began eating fish– a food he never ate before, but something Martins loves.
Martins is grateful to be a part of his new chance at life and says his family deserves it. Since, by law, Helene cannot personally compensate Martins for her gift of life, she wants to return the favor and has organized a GoFundMe for others to help Martins with her travel and lost wages as a living kidney donor.
A single mother of a five-year-old boy and out of work for almost eight weeks, Martins also covered the cost of regularly traveling to Orlando for follow-up appointments, in addition to losing wages. Her short-term disability only covers 60 percent of her pay after three weeks of missed work.
Helene set the fundraiser goal at $5,000, and so far, $2,000 has been raised.
“We want to thank everyone for their thoughts, prayers, and support,” said Helene, who continues to hold hope that she will meet her fundraising goal for Martins, “the most special angel on this Earth.”
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- Selene Raj is a writer and a Florida International University graduate. Born in Trinidad and raised in America, she completed her Master’s in Mass Communications in 2020 and has been living in Coral Springs since 2004. She is passionate about the communities she lives and works in and loves reporting and sharing stories that are as complex and meaningful as the people who live in them.
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