In Memory Of Dennis Fearn
Susan Brown's donation to brother Dennis Fearn
Long Island TRIO honors the memory of our friend and LI TRIO volunteer Dennis Fearn. We also honor Susan Brown, who donated part of her liver to her brother in order to save and extend his life.
Sister and brother get to spend another Christmas together after she gives him 65% of her liver
Susan Brown’s donation to brother Dennis Fearn was first-ever live donor liver transplant at Montefiore Hospital
A week before Thanksgiving, Susan gave her brother an amazing gift–
more than half of her liver, to save him from a life of infections and pain.
“She’s a hero,” said Dennis, 58.
Susan said she did it because Dennis is a hero in her eyes.
“He’s such a phenomenal brother to my family,” she said. “He took care of my brother, my father and my mother when they became sick. They all died within a few years of each other.
“So the right thing to do was to take care of him.”
The siblings were born in Elmhurst, Queens and now reside in Long Island.
Dennis Fearn and his sister Susan Brown always spend Christmas together.
Dennis doesn’t know what he’ll buy her this year.
Even a new car or a trip to Florida wouldn’t be a good enough gift.
“There’s no way I can possibly repay her, she may have saved my life; she certainly made my life easier,” said Dennis.
“There were five of us, and my brother Kevin died, so now its the three girls and myself,” said Dennis. “Susan, 53, is the youngest.
“We had our fights…we were always pretty close.”
Dennis had been managing his liver disease with medication for some 15 years. But in August, 2010 he started losing weight and feeling worse. “I went to a specialist and he told me I needed a new liver,” he said.
When he met with Dr. Paul Gaglio, Medical Director of the Liver Transplant Program at Montefiore Einstein Center for Transplantation in the Bronx, Susan accompanied him.
Because Dennis’ case was not urgent, he would have had to wait as long as eight years to get a deceased donor’s liver.
“By then he would have gotten too sick to get a transplant,” said Gaglio.
When Gaglio told them it was possible to transplant a portion of a liver from a living donor, “Susan’s eyes lit up and she said ‘I’d like to do that,’” recalled Dennis.
She endured a series of tests which determined that she would be a good donor.
“I kept asking, “are you okay with this?’” said Dennis.
Susan’s husband, Danny, suggested they get the operation behind them before the New Year.
“It was a great idea,” said Dennis, a former government bond broker on Wall St.
The transplant took place on Nov. 16, at Montefiore Medical Center. As she went into the OR, Susan was asked for the umpteenth time if she was sure she wanted to go through with it.
“I was scared but I said ‘I’m still a go,’” she said.
It was the first live donor liver transplant surgery performed at Montefiore.
Dr. Sarah Bellemare removed 65% of Susan’s liver.
“It’s a big surgery for the donor,” said Bellemare. “Fortunately the liver regenerates. It’s simple in that you just need compatible blood type; but you usually need an emotional connection.”
Dr. Milan Kinkhabwala, Chief of the Division of Transplantation at the Montefiore-Einstein center, removed the diseased liver and implanted the healthy organ in Fearn.
Gaglio, Bellemare and Kinkhabwala had spent years at New York-Presbyterian Medical Center, where they had performed some 200 live donor liver transplants.
Pat McDonough, live donor transplant coordinator, worked with Susan, and
Lisa Johnson-Berger was recipient transplant coordinator for Dennis
“The risk is higher for the donor of a liver than a kidney donor,” saidMcDonough. “This is a family that loves each other; they’re driven by love.”
Dennis has already put on a few pounds and is feeling better.
“It will be a wonderful Christmas,” said Susan, mother of two daughters in college.
“I’ve thought about (what to give her) long and hard,” said Dennis. “I have a little token for her. Brothers and sisters do what they can for each other, but she went well above.”
When asked if she would buy Dennis a Christmas present after giving him such an incredible gift, Susan laughed and said, “We pick names out of a hat to buy presents for each other. I didn’t get him. If I did, I could have saved some money!”
This article was originally published here: