Harvesting Hope

Published on June 20th, 2011 by Christina Echegaray.

Paul and Beth Frankenberg. Photo by Joe Howell.

Paul and Beth Frankenberg know hope.

Hope is what Paul’s parents were given when he was an infant.

Hope is what Paul and Beth in turn want to give to other families.

In 1973, doctors told Paul’s parents, during a 6-week-old routine physical, that he likely wouldn’t survive.
He was born with a form of congenital heart disease called Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD), a condition in which there are holes in the walls that separate the left and right ventricles.

Doctors in Columbus, Ohio, were willing to try surgery, but not until he was older.

“Pediatricians told my parents, ‘There is nothing you can do. It’s just a matter of time. Go home and enjoy him now,’” says Paul, now 37.

Paul’s young parents wanted a second opinion. They left Ohio to travel to their hometown in Hartford, Conn. Doctors at Hartford Hospital told the Frankenbergs, “We can do this.”

At age 27 months, Paul had open heart surgery to repair his damaged heart septum.

Besides getting a second chance with their son, the Frankenbergs got another gift as well.
A year after his surgery, his parents received a note from the hospital that said an anonymous donor had paid the balance for Paul’s operation.

The kind, selfless act of a stranger has stuck with him.

For over a decade, Paul and Beth have volunteered at and supported the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

“If there are ways we can give back to families, through our time or our resources, we have a responsibility to do it,” Paul said.

They started volunteering in 2000, a year after they moved from Atlanta to Nashville. Paul spent time with patients at the Vanderbilt Dayani Center, and Beth volunteered at Children’s Hospital.

“It was a commitment and passion for us to give back to families who potentially will experience what Paul and his family experienced,” Beth said.

They also are impressed with the care at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. In 2005, Paul had a pacemaker put in at the Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute to ensure his heart maintained a consistent, electrical rhythm.
Every year, Paul and Beth find more ways to be involved.

Paul currently sits on the  Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital Board. Beth is on the board of the Friends of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital. The couple, along with three other hospital supporters, helped form Champions, a group of Nashville’s current and emerging leaders, to offer philanthropic support for improving the health and well-being of children.

“I think everybody has something to give no matter how small or big – whether it’s your time or your financial resources,” said Beth. “It’s important to give back to your community, and it’s certainly important to us to give back to our community.”

Paul and Beth encourage others to get involved too.

“They are doing amazing work at Children’s Hospital that is geared toward research excellence and high-quality, family-centered patient care,” Paul said. “Anyone can get involved and make a positive impact on the great work and care delivered at our hospital.” – by Christina Echegaray