Former Beaver Valley Nitehawks defenceman Lyle Frank was known for his character, his work ethic, and integrity as a player but, as a person, the Grande Prairie native has taken his game to a whole new level.
Earlier this month, the 24-year-old, who played with the Hawks from 2013-16, donated a kidney to an unknown recipient, through the Kidney Paired Donation Program. Lyle’s mother, Melanie, suffered from kidney failure and had been going through dialysis three days a week for the past several years.
“When I was younger she ended up in the hospital because she had kidney failure,” Lyle told the Trail Times.
Melanie recovered, but the disease struck again when Lyle was in his last season with the Nitehawks.
“I played that season out and at the end of the season I went and did some testing to see if I was a blood match. I ended up not being a match, so I was kind of disheartened. But they told me about this paired exchange program, where I can donate a kidney to someone and in return they find a match for my mom.”
Lyle went through a rigorous testing program in search of a suitable match, and also his ability to handle the potential physical and psychological effects of living with one kidney.
“Finally, in December I got a call and we found a match through the program,” said Lyle. “They put it all in place, and I flew to Vancouver with my dad, and my mom had hers done in Edmonton.
“I had my surgery on a Monday and she had hers on a Wednesday … the surgeon came in after and told me my kidney was in the recipient and they were doing well. So it was a relief, because you’re sitting in the hospital and you’re stiff and sore, so it’s definitely the news you want to hear.”
Both Melanie and Lyle will be off work and recovering as Melanie’s progress continues to be monitored at the Edmonton hospital. She will be there for three months before returning home to Grande Prairie and Lyle to Trail. So, in an effort to help out the Frank family, his former Nitehawks teammates began a fundraising campaign.
Lyle stayed with the McKinnon family in Rossland as a billet during his time with the Nitehawks. Their son Archie, the Nitehawks captain, and Lyle became good friends, and now Archie, along with his parents Rick and Kim, teammate Dallas Calvin, as well as the Nitehawks’ and the Trail Smoke Eaters’ organizations, all teamed up to help out Lyle and his mom.
“I’ve known Lyle for almost seven years now,” Archie said. “He’s a pretty quiet kid, and always worked hard and put everyone before himself … and even when his mom found a donor, for him to donate his kidney is just amazing to me.”
The Smoke Eaters donated proceeds from their Game 4 puck toss on Friday to Lyle and his family, and the Nitehawks will hold a fundraiser at Game 4 of the Neil Murdoch Division final at the Beaver Valley Arena on Wednesday. In addition, for donations $10 or more, your name will be entered to win a Nitehawks jersey, hopefully, with a number-3 on the back.
Lyle and Melanie are now on the road to recovery, yet the financial drain is almost as acute as the physical one, so the support provided by the Nitehawks and Smoke Eaters families will go a long way in making it less bumpy. For Lyle, getting back to Trail, returning to his job at Curlew Refrigeration, and resuming life is something he looks forward to – and is hopeful it will be sooner than later.
“Everyone I met here over the years, and my time with the Nitehawks, definitely made me want to stay here,” said Lyle. “I love the area, loved all the people, and everything about it … I mean, I never even played for the Trail Smoke Eaters and they’re doing this for me, it’s unbelievable.”
The national Kidney Paired Donation (KPD) program is an interprovincial program operated by Canadian Blood Services in collaboration with Canada’s living kidney donation and kidney transplant programs. The KPD program gives individuals an opportunity to become a living donor and donate a kidney to someone in need, and in doing so, provide transplant candidates an increased opportunity to receive a transplant.
A GoFundMe campaign was launched under Lyle Frank Organ Donor at: www.gofundme.com/lyle-frank-organ-donor.