The Gift Of Life: How One Family's Gift Is Helping Another Live Their Dreams

The Gift Of Life: How One Family's Gift Is Helping Another Live Their Dreams
Posted at 12:48 AM, Jan 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-18 20:52:27-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - The Florida State women's basketball program is one unit, one team, one family.

"We really believe that it's the people of this community," said head coach Sue Semrau after practice on Tuesday. "It's the people that are at Florida State that really give back to each other."

For Ryan Burke, Coach Sue is family. The college freshman can't remember a time that the head coach hasn't been in his life.

"Early on, I met the Burkes when Ryan and Sarah were both really young and developed a friendship with the parents," smiled Semrau. "It was interesting when they sent Sarah to camp and then the relationship just really grew."

"It is funny how she kept in touch and now me, who was just born when Sue got the job, now here I am now, working under her, living the dream!" laughed Ryan.

It's a dream that without the generous give of life 27 years ago wouldn't be reality.

Nancy Burke, mother and Ryan and Sarah received a heart transplant after giving birth to daughter Sarah in 1989.

"It is a lot to process," she remembered. "You know that another family has given you this gift in the moment of their greatest grief."

That family was that of Tammi Brubaker, a fifteen year old girl from New Orleans, and after reaching out and connecting, the families finally met five years later.

"What I remember is walking up my sidewalk in front of my house and the hugs and the tears," said Nancy. "I remember Tammi's grandfather, just the sweetest man with just tears coming out of his eyes. Over the years, they've always just embraced all of us."

Coral Denton works with LifeQuest Florida. 

"It's not extremely common for donor families and recipents to link up," she said. "The fact that she's been able to have a great relationship with hers is very special and does help both families because they're able to hear their loved one live on through someone else."

Tammi's gift gave the Burke's another gift eight years later- Ryan.

"It's the reason I have life, seriously," said Ryan. "Literally, it is why I have life, so it means a lot."

"Her sharing her story, and the scar that she has from that," said Semrau. "She is just always someone who's been energetic, full of life, you never would guess she'd gone through a heart transplant."

"It was very short goals when Sarah was a baby, we didn't know how long I would be here," said Nancy. "To sit back now and think about today, and think that I've lived long enough to have another child and now I've lived long enough for him to enter college and work with this awesome woman, learning from here and the same things I admired about her when she first got here."

"The things that we go through often times and trying to build a program here, when times were really tough and things were really hard, and understanding that perspective of not only Nancy receiving a heart transplant but somebody that was willing to donate that heart is tremendous," said Sue. "That changed me. That changed me in knowing that that's something that will be important to me when I have the opportunity to donate."

A tremendous gift, giving life to one family, so they can live their dreams with another.