Tonawanda News

May 18, 2013

Town police officer awaiting heart transplant

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — A man who has dedicated his police career to helping residents is now relying on the generosity of others as he waits for a heart transplant at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester.

Timothy Day, a 17-year veteran of the Town of Tonawanda police, was diagnosed with hypereosinophilic syndrome in October. The autoimmune disease first caused pneumonia, and then began to weaken his heart. 

“It came on unexpectedly and rather suddenly,” he said. “And it was more severe than they initially thought.” 

Timothy has now been hospitalized at Strong for more than two months, waiting for the right heart to come his way. How long he’ll be there isn’t known, but the average wait time varies between three and nine months.

“All the stars have to align first,” he said. “I have to match up to be the perfect recipient.”

Meanwhile, Timothy’s wife, Sherry Brinser-Day, is traveling back and forth to the hospital with their three children — Erin, 8, Clare, 6 and Henry, 4.

“Henry says ‘I want to see Daddy,’ everyday,” Sherry said. “But I can’t drive there everyday.”

The quick diagnosis and hospitalization was rough on the rest of the family, too. 

“We had no time for transition ... it was just so fast,” she said. “We just couldn’t believe something like this could happen.”

But despite all the challenges, the family was able to enjoy a positive moment together last month when Timothy’s daughter, Erin, made her her First Communion at the hospital’s chapel — just so her dad could be there. 

“The fact that she wanted to do it here with me was very touching,” Timothy said. “She knew it was important, and she wanted to do it with me.”

The Days’ local parish, St. Paul’s, helped organize the ceremony, which Sherry said exceeded the family’s expectations. Retired Bishop Matthew Clark presided, a local florist donated decorations for the altar and dozens of singers from the University of Rochester missed their spring fling to sing during the mass.

“A lot of people went out of their way to make it happen for me,” Timothy said. “It was overwhelming.”

The ceremony was emotional for Sherry, too. 

“Among all the bad feelings, that is going to be a highlight from this time that will put a smile on everyone’s face ... everyone will remember it,” she said. “It was flawless.” 

In addition to dealing with the day-to-day struggles of Timothy’s diagnosis, the Days are also looking ahead and are working to spread the word about organ donation, in hopes that they can help others who are put in a similar situation. Although many are listed as organ donors on their licenses, Sherry said registering with UNYTS and discussing one’s wishes with family members can aid first responders in retrieving organs quickly.

“Time is of the essence when you are donating,” she said. “If the police can just go to UNYTS, they can quickly verify whether the person is a donor.” 

Sherry added that there are very few organs available locally, and that New York has one of the lowest donor registries in the country — likely due to lack of knowledge. 

“We want the next group of people not to have to think about waiting like we do,” Sherry said. “We just want to help other people, and help get the system improved.”

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter at @JessicaLBagley