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Gift of life: Northport husband and father receives liver from organ donor

People by: Chrissy Ruggeri, August 27, 2022

Sean and Catherine Fenlon, with their son Brendan. Catherine recently reached out to the public on social media in hopes of finding a liver donor for Sean, who has hepatocellular carcinoma.

Updated Friday, September 16, 9:01am

This past Sunday morning, the Fenlon family received the call that a healthy cadaver liver was available, from someone on life support who was an organ donor.

Sean went into surgery at 4:45am on Monday, and was in ICU by lunchtime. His wife Catherine told the Journal that while Tuesday was rough, by Wednesday Sean was sitting in his chair, tubes removed, chatting, sipping water and chewing on ice. The surgeon saw no sign of cancer outside the liver that was removed; his prognosis is excellent. Sean should be discharged within 10 days. While he can’t have visitors at the hospital aside from Catherine, she encouraged friends to text or email him, and gave permission to the Journal to share the following message:

Some people wait a very long time to get that call, and some can’t hang in long enough. We feel beyond lucky.

There are so many people who have helped us get here. The one we of course can’t, and won’t, stop thinking about is the person who passed. Our heart goes out to their loved ones. Our feeling of gratefulness goes beyond words.

We are so thankful for the NYU Langone radiologists who kept Sean healthy until this moment came. Patricia [the RN coordinator on NYU’s Living Donor team] who worked with us for our alternate plan, and the surgeons, nurses, and staff that have made this the best experience possible.

Our family, friends, and work colleagues, the list goes on and on.

To those of you that contacted Patricia (she will be reaching out as well) and considered being a living donor – one day we’ll find a way to articulate what that has meant to us. Until then, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

– – – – –

Northport resident Catherine Fenlon has a very specific ask: a liver for her husband. Recently diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), Sean needs a new liver to survive. Malignant tumors have been localized, Catherine explained, and radiation is keeping them at bay until a transplant is able to be performed. “But we need to find a donor, and fast,” she said.

Though “out of her comfort zone,” Catherine recently went public with the request, posting to her Facebook page details of her husband’s condition, emphasizing that the sooner a liver is found, the better. Catherine has given the Journal permission to share her post, a portion of which is below:

For those of you that know Sean I don’t have to explain why his is a life worth saving. He is an amazing father, husband, son, brother, uncle, and friend. He is truly one of the most selfless humans walking this earth – and even that is not easy for him. One would think losing your leg in your 20s would be the hardest thing you’d have to face in life, but not so for Sean.

Sean is everyone’s go-to guy. He's larger than life. He’s my best friend.

I don’t want to find out what our lives would be like without him – I mean, who would correct me all the time, give Brendan his pointers before and after every game? Educate us on the music we need to be listening to, and plan our next adventure? What would we do without him lifting us up when we're facing insurmountable obstacles?

Sean has always, and will always handle these setbacks with humor, character, and grace.

But time is of the essence. Did you know you can donate a portion of your liver, and it regenerates in just over a month? Amazing.

While we await a possible cadaver liver, we want to increase Sean’s chances by finding a living donor. Sean's health is best now, so he’d have the best recovery sooner. The radiation treatments will decrease liver function over time, and we run the risk of spread. A live-donor liver tends to be healthier, there’s less time outside the body, and doctors have analyzed every inch of it. Plus for every living donor, one less person is on the waiting list, freeing up that liver for someone else.

If you are, or know someone that is in excellent health and would like to be a superhero IRL, please reach out to his RN coordinator, Patricia Canda, from the NYU Living Donor team. The team can answer any questions and complete a health care screening to see if you are eligible to donate.

Phone: 212-263-3621.

Sean receives his care at NYU Langone Medical Center. There is a special group of liver donor experts who will conduct the medical testing to make sure that the donation will be safe. After surgery and recovery, all donors lead normal lives with no special medical care required. NYU will cover all of the costs of the tests associated with the donor evaluation, surgery, and recovery.

General requirements/info:

18-60 years old
Type O blood (or Type A2)
BMI under 34
There are zero medical costs for the donor.

You can also complete the health care screening at this website: Any contact you make with the donor team at NYU is strictly confidential.

If you are still reading this, THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart.