On Nov. 7, 2011, with his wife of 52 ears, Carol, by his side, Mr. Anderson received a kidney donation at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center’s Renal and PancreasTransplant Center from his daughter, Sharon Feniello, of South River, who is an East Brunswick Board of Education employee.
“He has been an amazing inspiration for me, and for his co-workers,” says Mrs. Feniello, whose sister, Colleen, was also prepared to be a donor. “He never loses sight of the fact that there is always someone else who has a more difficult situation than he does and he makes it a point to motivate all of us to be held to the same morals and values.”
After retiring from American Airlines, Mr. Anderson, who is a diabetic, had quintuple-bypass heart surgery 10 years ago, but he did not slow down. He used his free time after teaching to coach soccer, work the time clock at basketball games, and organize fundraisers and school reunions as the school’s alumni director.
Then two years ago, with his kidneys now failing, Mr. Anderson went on peritoneal dialysis and performed the treatment on himself four times a day, while continuing to work. When it came time to have his daughter tested to see if she could be his kidney donor, there was more bad news. Mr. Anderson was found to have prostate cancer.
After his successful cancer treatment, his insurance company put a two year hold on any kidney transplant. It took a call from Shamkant Mulgaonkar, M.D., Chief of the Renal and Pancreas Transplant Division, to convince the insurance company to cover the transplant.
Mr. Anderson also credits two physicians with helping him through the process,Sadanand Palekar, MD, Program Director of Newark Beth Israel’s Renal and PancreasTransplant Center, and cardiologist James J. Hefferan M.D., who referred him to Dr. Palekar. Dr. Hefferan was one of Mr. Anderson’s former students at Marist, and Mr. Anderson said that anytime that Dr. Hefferan is involved, “I know everything will be okay.”
With the transplant finally approved, and Mrs. Feniello found to be a match, the transplant surgery was a success. When Mr. Anderson returned to his job at Marist, his first time back was for the school’s holiday Christmas party. The room gave him a standing ovation.
“Frank Anderson is a virtual icon at Marist High School,” says Alice J. Miesnik, Principal, Marist High School. “Students from as far back as the 60’s remember him as their teacher and coach. These are the same students who now know him as a friend. One of his former students became his son-in-law! When Sharon, Frank’s daughter, offered to give her dad one of her kidneys, we at Marist weren’t in the least surprised; such generosity runs in the family. The Anderson name is part of the fabric that is Marist High School. Because of Frank’s successful transplant, we get to have him around a lot longer.”
Mrs. Feniello’s husband, Mark, and two children, Taylor, age 12 and Marky, age 9, were especially supportive of her decision to give a kidney to her father.
“They had been very worried about him and we all felt that this would make everything better,” she relates.
With the surgery behind him, Mr. Anderson and his wife look forward to long weekends in Pennsylvania where they have a second home. Watching the birds and feeding the deer will be a part of his richly deserved time off. Thanks to the success of his transplant, he also does not plan to retire from Marist any time soon.
“I cannot express to you how wonderful it feels to give the gift of life to a man that has been the most inspirational and influential person in my life,” says Mrs. Feniello. “He has built our family on values and faith, and has taught me that material things mean nothing in comparison to honor, integrity, and your relationship with God and family.”