Tonawanda News — TOWN OF TONAWANDA — A benefit set for Sunday with help a town police officer, Timothy Day, and his family offset the overwhelming costs associated with his wait for a heart transplant.
Timothy Day, a 17-year veteran of the Town of Tonawanda police force, was diagnosed with hypereosinophilic syndrome in October. The autoimmune disease first caused pneumonia, and then began to weaken his heart.
The disease came on unexpectedly and was more severe than Tim’s doctors initially thought. In April, Day was hospitalized at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester. He spent four months waiting for a heart transplant at the hospital, and his wife, Sherry Brinser-Day, and their three young children, Erin, 9, Clare, 6, and Henry, 4, traveled back and forth to see him.
But by late June, Tim’s heart began failing too quickly, and doctors decided to implant a mechanical heart pump.
“I underwent two surgeries,” he said. “About a week after the first one, an alarm went off, meaning that there was a problem, so they opened me back up.”
The pump is controlled by a computer, which Tim wears on his waist, and the computer attaches to wires that enter skin on his abdomen. During the day, the pump is powered by batteries, and at night, it is powered by electricity from an outlet.
To his children’s delight, the device has allowed Tim to come home.
“They were just thrilled,” Sherry said.
The kids have also started to help — reminding their dad to bring his “go bag” with extra batteries when he leaves the house, and helping pack away the batteries at night.
Doctors want Tim to regain his strength with the assistance of the pump for at least a year, but eventually, a heart transplant will be necessary. Tim’s illness — and the wait — has inspired the Day family to become passionate organ donation advocates.
Sherry said they’ve learned there are very few organs available locally, and that New York has one of the lowest donor registries in the country.
“If we could get one thing out, we’d say ‘please consider being an organ donor,’” Sherry said. “You are never too old or too sick ... and there are more hearts needed than there are available.”
A UNYTS booth will be at the benefit on Sunday, and attendees can sign up to be organ donors right at the event. There will also be live music, food, drinks, a silent auction and basket raffles.
The event, which will take place from 1 to 7 p.m. at the Ellwood Fire Hall, will help the Days with health care and other costs. Tim’s fellow officers are also helping out, and have been allowed to grow their beards to raise money and awareness for the cause.
In addition to the health care costs, Tim is still making regular trips to Rochester to see his doctors, and the family will have to complete renovations on their home in the coming months.
“We have already started some work,” Sherry said, noting that a generator was installed just in case the power goes out while Tim is relying on the heart pump. Among other necessary renovations, mold in the basement will have to be remediated before Tim undergoes a heart transplant, the rugs will have to be removed and the Days will have to build a first-floor bathroom.
“They are things that people could go without under normal circumstances, but we can’t,” she said.
Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter @JessicaLBagleyIF YOU GO • WHAT: Benefit for Timothy Day • WHEN: Sunday, 1 to 7 p.m. • WHERE: Ellwood Fire Hall, 1000 Englewood Ave., Kenmore • COST: $20 in advance, $25 at the door • TICKETS: Call Vinnie Christiano at 874-4339, Jill O'Malley at 553-4267 or Colleen Donovan at 447-1751