The power of a heartbeat: Milford’s French family gets through transplant, chaotic times

By Mike Finney
Posted 7/4/24

MILFORD — With each heartbeat that thumps inside of Todd French’s chest, every day feels like a precious second chance at living.

Mr. French, a 43-year-old native of Milford, …

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The power of a heartbeat: Milford’s French family gets through transplant, chaotic times


MILFORD — With each heartbeat that thumps inside of Todd French’s chest, every day feels like a precious second chance at living.

Mr. French, a 43-year-old native of Milford, underwent a successful heart transplant at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia on Nov. 11, 2021.

He and his wife, Lauren, are reminded of that hectic time every time their second child, Penelope “Penny” Rose French reaches a milestone or has a birthday.

Penny was born on Oct. 20, 2021, just a couple of weeks before Mr. French underwent his transplant surgery. They also have a 5-year-old son named Teddy.

“We did it,” Ms. French said. “Penny is kind of our timeline. So when we look at her (we remember) and we’re really big on those milestones. Every time we have a visit up to Penn or we hit some kind of six-month or 12-month milestone mark, we’ll say, ‘Remember, we said we couldn’t do this and now we can.’ So we always look at the positive.”

It was an unbelievably trying time for the Frenches and one that has made Mr. French appreciate the power of family more than ever.

“Family has pretty much been the most important thing, and it is easily the most important thing that has driven me to get healthy again,” Mr. French said.

“It’s been going really good. It started out kind of rough. The first year they warn you there’s going to be ups and downs and bumps in the road, and we certainly have had some. But for the past year and a half or so, it’s been pretty good.”

For Ms. French, who is a special education coordinator at Benjamin Banneker Elementary School in Milford, having a baby while her husband was in the fight for his life was unbelievably chaotic.

She said she is still recovering from all the stress she endured.

“It came at a really pivotal time in our life and I’m a big believer in everything happening for a reason and he’s healthy enough that our children are so young and probably won’t remember what he went through, and they’ll just remember him as their dad — a healthy figure in their life — and that’s everything,” Ms. French said.

“During the process I didn’t understand the stress that I was under. I kind of made it through day by day. However, I definitely paid for that. Following some really great resources through Penn, I was able to meet with a counselor and walk through everything.

“So, I’m still healing from the stress that I underwent through this as well.”

Mr. French recognizes everything that his wife and family were dealing with at the time.

“It was stressful not just for me, but my family as well,” he said. “Obviously, my wife having to take care of a toddler and an infant, as well as me coming home from being out of work for a year just to recover … it’s tough.”

Taking another big step

Mr. French, who was the boys’ soccer coach at Milford High School for eight years before his surgery, is already planning to take another huge step in his recovery.

“I’m actually changing jobs,” said Mr. French. “I was (teaching) at Banneker, and I am now going to be a health and physical education teacher at (Milford High School) this fall.

“I’m not currently the head coach of either soccer or golf. I’m going to volunteer this year and kind of get back into it and just volunteer as an assistant with the soccer team, with the plans of getting back as the head coach eventually.”

Mr. French will teach freshmen through seniors, doing weight-room activities with elective students and teaching gym and health classes.

He said each day has been a building block on top of the previous one in a long rehabilitation process.

“It still kind of (frustrates) me,” Mr. French said. “I’m still not exactly where I want to be. But medication alone kind of holds me back from doing certain things. The medication that I’m on is good in a lot of ways and also kind of breaks down your body in some ways as well.

“I’m still getting to where I want to be. But getting back into coaching will definitely help me.”

He said he began to see progress after he hired a personal trainer.

“One of the biggest things I did was I got a personal trainer to get me healthy again and a lot of credit goes to him and helping me stay on a healthy fitness path,” said Mr. French.

Almost back to normal

Ms. French said every time she goes to downtown Milford or out shopping, people are always sure to stop and ask how their family is doing.

“We live in a very small town. So very often, we will go somewhere, and people will say, ‘How’s Todd? How’s everyone doing?’, checking in on the family,” she said.

As for Mr. French, he said he tried reaching out to his heart donor’s family, but did not receive a response. He understands.

“They tell you to wait six months to a year before you kind of reach out and I reached out via a letter and I never got a response back,” he said.

“I might try again sometime. But sometimes they will respond and sometimes they won’t.”

As for now he will just appreciate the biggest present anybody could ever give him — the gift of life.

Staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at 302-741-8230 or
Follow @MikeFinneyDSN on X.

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