A Son’s Selfless Love
Just two months after donating his liver, Brian Clemente was in Upstate New York with his fiancé, Jessica, and friends for their joint bachelor/bachelorette party. He took a moment from the celebration to speak about his liver donation process, his current state, and the state of the liver recipient, his mother Pamela. With the surgery behind them, Brian now describes his mother as, “vibrant,” a remarkable change from the debilitated state she was in months prior. Clemente feels the two of them haven’t looked or felt this good in some time, stating that neither was experiencing any complications following the transplant procedure, thanks largely to the “angels” at Mount Sinai.
In 2013, Pamela had been diagnosed with Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH), liver inflammation and damage caused by a buildup of fat in the liver. Pamela’s condition was not life threatening at the time, but over the years her disease had progressed at an alarming rate and the liver transplant required to treat it would have to be done sooner than expected.
It was Brian’s sister-in-law Deborah who gave the family their first glimmer of hope in the form of a blood test kit. As a Health Education Teacher at Felix V. Festa Middle School in Rockland County, Deborah was familiar with and had access to the tools needed to determine if there was a blood match within the family, which could potentially lead to a liver donor. Unfortunately, Brian’s father was ruled out as a donor due to his age. Brian and his two brothers Mike and Paul had no hesitation when it came to testing their blood types. After Deborah tested all three brothers it turned out that Brian, the youngest, was the only match. The family understood that complications could arise at any time between then and the operating table, but for the time being they were able to breathe a sigh of relief.
Brian recalls being at the hospital on April 15, 2015. They had both arrived early that morning and Brian was pacing nervously until his procedure began at 8:00 am. Pamela had just celebrated her 72nd birthday, and surgery had already been delayed a week by a fever that afflicted her. It was then that the two found comfort in the Mount Sinai transplant team—the “Angels,” that guided them through the nerve-racking process, holding their hands and reassuring them that everything was going to be okay.
Brian awoke around 3:00 pm, feeling great and completely surprised by his large torso scar. According to Brian, he was pleased at the sight of the scar because it wasn’t about vanity to him. He had given a part of himself to his mother, the woman who had been the rock for him and his brothers all their lives. His joy is best described in a Thank You note he had written to the transplant team, which included Marcelo Facciuto, MD http://www.mountsinai.org/profiles/marcelo-null-facciuto, Sander S. Florman, MD http://www.mountsinai.org/profiles/sander-s-florman, and Leona Kim-Schluger, MD http://www.mountsinai.org/profiles/hyung-leona-kim-schluger. The note said: “My brothers and I have always looked at our mother as our guiding light, and we were in no way prepared to lose her. Thanks to the doctors and nurses at Mount Sinai, we get to keep her for a while—hopefully a long one.”
Pamela woke up in the early evening, and was met with tears of joy by Brian, who came into her room waiting to embrace her. Brian remembered her telling him about the angels she saw watching over her on the operating table, and thinking that the morphine must have been working its way through her system. However, evidence of such a miracle was further demonstrated when the family was shown a picture of Pamela’s removed liver, described by Brian as looking like, “hamburger meat.” Relief came over the family as they learned that they were lucky to have had the transplant done sooner rather than later, as Pamela might have had less time than originally anticipated.
Today Brian is eager to express his eternal gratitude to the transplant team members for doing their job or, more accurately, giving the “gift of saving lives and giving families hope.”