The Persinger Family's Story

Chris continues to live on in the 64 recipients he helped through tissue donation, including his sister Caitlyn.Tissue Donor & Recipient

It was December 2007 when Shelley and Todd Persinger suddenly found themselves living a nightmare. Their oldest child, 17–year–old Chris – a free spirit who loved sports, his guitar, and big-city adventures, had just died in a car crash.

“We received a call from the American Tissue Services Foundation,” Shelley said. “Chris was a registered donor, but he was only 17 and needed parent permission to donate his tissue. So, we honored his wishes.”

After Chris’ death, his sister Caitlyn threw herself into sports, where she felt closest to Chris. They had shared a passion for soccer, and Chris always pushed Caitlyn to the limit, trying to make her better. Caitlyn became an outstanding high school athlete and hoped to play soccer in college. Then, right before her senior year, Caitlyn tore her meniscus and ACL while playing soccer. The recovery period for this type of injury is lengthy – usually about six months or longer. “My injury hit me harder than I thought it would,” Caitlyn said. “I didn’t have this outlet that I could turn to anymore.” Caitlyn was desperate to get back out on the playing field – for herself, her college career, and her brother.

During a visit to the surgeon’s office, the Persinger family was told that there were two options to reconstruct an ACL – using an autograft, which is a patient’s own tissue, or an allograft, which is donor tissue. “It was 3 1/2 years later, and we started to think about Chris and wondered if he’d helped anyone,” Shelley said. She emailed the American Tissue Services Foundation (ATSF) and learned that Chris had helped 63 people. The Persingers were comforted by the news.

Then on the day before Caitlyn’s surgery, they received a call from ATSF. There was one allograft left from Chris’ donation that had not yet been transplanted, and it happened to be a section of his tibialis posterior, which was the exact tissue that Caitlyn needed. Caitlyn’s physician placed a request for overnight shipment. The next morning, Chris’s donated tissue was transplanted into his sister’s knee.

Caitlyn recovered quickly, returning to the soccer field in her senior year and then going on to play in college. “Having his tissue in my knee is a constant reminder that he is with me,” Caitlyn said. “I always knew Chris was watching over me, but I never thought he could be a part of me like he is now.” And she hopes her family’s story serves as a reminder that the tissue banking community can change lives, often at critical moments.

“Chris continues to live on in the 64 recipients he helped, including Caitlyn,” Shelley said. “His impact really made a difference.”