BY BARRY WARNER
On June 9, 1993 Sue Negrin, a 38-year-old mother of three young children and long-time resident of Bardonia, received a new heart at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. Twenty years later, on June 9, 2013, Dr. Mark Zucker reunited with his two transplant nurses, Dawn Scotto and Donna Esposito plus Sue Negrin and her family, as part of a 17-member team that participated in NJ Sharing Network’s Third Annual 5K Walk fundraiser in New Providence, NJ.
Sue Negrin said, “It hits you in the face when you learn that you need a transplant. I was frantic that I was going to die and leave the child care responsibilities to my husband, Doug. I was referred by Cardiologist Dr. Michael Innerfield, my angel, to Beth Israel, which was a three year old transplant center at the time, but has grown to be the second largest adult transplant center in the country. I have been fortunate to have had an unbelievable medical team and supportive family. I am still back at Beth Israel Medical Center every two to three months, where the same people take my blood. I am leading a normal life, but organ transplant patients must take medication daily, regulate diet and weight carefully and be constantly aware of possible infection. I have enjoyed a long-lasting relationship with the transplant team of Dr. Mark Zucker and Nurses Dawn Scotto and Donna Esposito. I am grateful for the overwhelming generosity of the anonymous mother, who donated her fourteen year old daughter’s heart that saved my life. I have written to the mother over the years to let her know that her daughter’s heart is still beating. The non-profit ‘Transplants Save Lives’ organization serves residents of Rockland and Orange Counties. It brings recipients, candidates, living donors and families together to help with their ongoing personal and psychological needs. An annual donor fundraising event is held every April in Rockland Lake State Park.”
Dr. Mark Zucker, director of heart failure treatment and transplant at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center said, “Not saving Susan in 1993 was not an option. Moreover, she had three small children, ages three, six and nine plus a very attentive family. Shortly after the surgery, maintaining her blood pressure became increasingly difficult. A decision was made to take her back to the operating room to find the source of the problem. In the operating room, an artery was found to be bleeding. In a few days, she was up and around and discharged, with instructions to follow-up as an out-patient. Weekly heart biopsies were performed for six weeks. No rejection was noted, the biopsies became less frequent and Susan never rejected-not to this day. Her heart function is normal and I no longer consider Susan to be a cardiac patient. Rather, I consider her to be a friend. At the NJ Sharing Network fundraiser, I donned my Susan Negrin shirt and did the 5K Walk with the team. Transplantation is, as they say, the gift of life.”
Transplant Nurse Donna Esposito, now working at Houston Methodist Hospital said, “Sue’s donor was a fourteen year-old girl whose family made the most altruistic gift possible on the face of this earth-organ donation-the thought of saving another person’s life, while dealing with the loss of their child. I remember the day we had to tell Sue and her husband that she needed a transplant. Dr. Zucker and I went into her room in the CCU and he explained that her heart was beyond repair and that the only option to save her life was a transplant. I sat on the edge of her bed for a long time as she talked about her family and how important her kids were to her and Doug. She didn’t want to leave all the burden of raising three young children to her husband. It is the single moment that bonded us together. We formed team ‘Newheart 93’ and walked in the NJ Sharing network 5K Walk on June 9, 2013-20 years to the day after her life-saving transplant. She has never lived her life defined by medical issues, but lived everyday of her life to the fullest. She is absolutely my hero!”
Transplant Nurse Dawn Scotto, now working at New York-Presbyterian Columbia University Medical Center said, “There are two vivid memories I have. First was seeing a very ill appearing woman, sitting hunched over in the Coronary Care Unit bed with her family and my thoughts on the three young children, possibly growing up without their mom. Secondly, after the transplant, Sue returned to the operating room due to excessive bleeding. A transplant is needed for survival, however, someone’s tragedy is another’s saving grace. The transplant procedure and follow-up care provides stress every step of the way. We were a strong team with a special bond, plus we supported each other through the good experiences and difficult ones as well. This June marked Sue’s twentieth year after receiving her transplant and we, the team, celebrated by participating in the NJ Sharing Network 5K Walk with Sue, Doug and their family and then went to their home for lunch. It was great to be with her at this milestone in her life. She is an amazing, brave and strong woman and I am honored to know her and her family.”
NJ Sharing Network is a non-profit, federally designated organ procurement organization responsible for the recovery of organs and tissues for the 5,000 New Jersey residents currently awaiting transplantation and is part of the national recovery system, which is in place for the over 115,000 people on waiting lists.
For further information: www.transplantssavelives.com and www.njsharingnetwork.org