SHORT HILLS, NJ – On June 9, 1993, Sue Negrin – a mother of three – received a new heart at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. Twenty years later, her transplant team is still celebrating.
Dr. Mark J. Zucker, Director of Heart Failure Treatment and Transplant at Newark Beth Israel, will reunite with his two transplant nurses, as well as Negrin and her family, to mark the exact day – 20 years ago - of the life-saving surgery. They have the ideal venue: participating in a 17-member team at NJ Sharing Network’s Third-Annual 5K Walk & USATF Certified Race on Sunday, June 9 in New Providence.
Zucker, of Short Hills, still remembers when Negrin was referred to Beth Israel – which was just a three-year-old transplant center at the time. The center has since grown into the second largest adult transplant center in the United States.
Zucker recalled how rare it was for a young woman of 38 to have a massive heart attack and require a transplant. He still remembers how a bleeding artery made the transplant difficult, and there was deep concern that Negrin would not survive.
“I even remember going out into the waiting room and speaking to her mom and dad, telling them the blood was nearly impossible to stop,” the transplant surgeon said. But a second surgery solved the complications, ending 14 hours of surgery. Negrin has fully recovered, and has created lasting relationships with her entire transplant team.
“I even remember attending her daughter’s bat mitzvah in 1996 with my oldest son,” Zucker recalled. Negrin had attended her doctor’s wedding earlier on; she was one of just two transplant patients invited.
Donna Esposito, one of Negrin’s transplant nurses, still carries vivid memories of the young mom’s arrival in the intensive care unit. The stay-at-home mom, with children ages 3, 6 and 9, was frantic she was going to die, and leave the child care responsibility to her husband.
“I’ll never forget it, and Sue and I have managed to remain friends all these years,” said Esposito, now working at the Methodist Hospital in Houston. “With her 20th anniversary coming, I called and asked her how she was going to celebrate. She said she thought she might go out to dinner or something. I said `no,’ I am flying up and we are all going to do the 5K together.”
The other transplant nurse participating in the 5K is Dawn Scotto, who lives in Leonia and works at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.
The 5K team, called “Team New Heart 1993,” has grown to 17 members and others are expected to join as the anniversary draws closer. “It’s going to be a very emotional day for all of us,” Esposito said. They expect to raise more than a $1,000.
“I’ve been fortunate to have an unbelievable medical team and an extremely supportive family,” said Negrin, now a wholesale printer living in Bardonia, NY. “I’m still back at Beth Israel every two to three months, where the same people take my blood. I’ve enjoyed very long-lasting relationships with the people who took such wonderful care of me.”
Negrin also noted the overwhelming generosity of the anonymous mother who donated her 14-year-old daughter’s heart. “I have written to her over the years to let her know her daughter’s heart is still beating,” she said. “Words can’t describe how grateful I am for the generosity that saved my life.”
To create or join a team, or to make a financial contribution to the 5K Walk/Race, visit www.NJSharingNetwork.org. You can also visit the website or call 1-800-742-7365 to learn more about organ and tissue donation and register as an organ and tissue donor.