MANHASSETT, N.Y. - Photos showing a smiling and playful Frankie England during his time in the hospital only tell half of the story. Doctors say the Massapequa teen was the youngest heart transplant patient on Long Island.
"Once you hear the word 'transplant' at 19, it's something you never want to hear," he said.
His health took a turn for the worse over the summer when the actor and avid dancer found himself having trouble breathing.
"The feeling you get not knowing if you're going to wake up tomorrow or take your last breath is scary," England said.
His heart was functioning at barely 15% and his kidneys and liver were also failing, according to his doctors at Northwell Health. He was placed on the National Heart Transplant List in September and waited for what felt like an eternity.
"He ultimately required a small heart pump placed through his leg to support his circulation in order to keep him alive," Northwell Health's Dr. Simon Maybaum said.
Frankie underwent surgery last month and will be home for Thanksgiving. He has this heartfelt message for his anonymous donor's family.
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"I don't feel like I'm fighting alone," England said. "If I can't find the strength in myself I feel like I'm fighting for him."
Frankie will need routine heart biopsies over the next few months as well as medication for the foreseeable future. Doctors do expect him to make a full recovery, which means teaching dance and living a normal life.
"We would expect Frankie to do well for many years and will continue to follow him with less intensity as the years roll by," Maybaum said.
His parents say having their son back is the best gift this holiday season.
"To see him get out of that bed, come off that balloon pump, I'm forever in your debt," said Frankie's dad.
Frankie said he's forever grateful.