S’pore-born wife comes to terms with hubby’s death after he got cancerous kidney in NY transplant
FOR the first time in the eight years since her husband died, Mrs Kimberly Liew, 46, felt that a heavy burden had been lifted from her shoulders.
Her Singaporean husband, Vincent, died from cancer seven months after getting a kidney from a US donor who had the disease. He was 37. The couple were then living in New York.They had no children.
She said of her devoutly religious husband: “Vincent stated that God doesn’t make mistakes. He must have a reason why this happened.
“After eight years, I guess I know why this happened. This happened so that the story could be told, and people’s lives could be saved.”
Mrs Liew spoke to The New Paper a week after a US jury had found New York University Langone Medical Center not liable for her husband’s death. The New Paper carried the report on Tuesday.
She sought US$3 million (S$4.2 million) for her pain and suffering and was stunned when the verdict was announced.
She said: “I didn’t know what was going on. I asked my sister-in-law sitting with me, ‘Is that the verdict?’ and she said, ‘Yeah, you lost the case.’”
Mrs Liew and her husband were childhood sweethearts in Singapore. They were neighbours in Redhill.
In the late 1970s, when she was still a teenager, her family migrated to New York. Mr Liew joined her there in 1990 and they were married on Valentine’s Day in 1992.
While Mrs Liew became a US citizen, Mr Liew remained a Singaporean and worked in the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in New York.
Recounting their happy marriage, she said: “Our childhood fun time was jogging, playing table-tennis and going to church together. As he was from Raffles Institution, he attended Kay Poh Road Baptist Church with me, which at that time wasnear the school.”
Mr Liew had suffered from diabetes since he was a teenager.
His kidneys failed in 1998, causing him to go for three-hour dialysis sessions three times a week.
Mrs Liew did most of the driving, taking her husband to his dialysis sessions where he would read to pass the time, while she went grocery shopping.
His high medical bills meant the couple could not afford luxuries like watching Broadway plays frequently.
But their life together was happy – they did little everyday things for each other.
While Mrs Liew did the cooking, her husband would wash the dishes. They spent hours at the laundromat together and while she did most of the driving, he handled the household chores.
Mrs Liew also remembers how they celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary, which was their last together.
She said: “He had a surprise party for meat a Korean restaurant. He invited about 15 people to the dinner. He also sent a dozen roses to my office.”
Ten days later, the call from the hospital came.
Mrs Liew said: “We received a phone call from NYU Medical Center on Feb 24, 2002, informing us to rush to the hospital immediately, because there was a kidney that matched Vincent.
“The next day, we were informed that the donor was a woman. Her name and whereabouts and how she died was confidential.”
A month later, Mr Liew’s left foot became swollen, suggesting that all was not well with the transplant.
On April 17, 2002, the couple was told that an autopsy showed that the donor, Ms Sandy Cabrera, 50,who died of a stroke, had undetected uterine cancer.
Mrs Liew said her husband kept insisting on having the kidney removed but the transplant surgeon said it was all right to keep the organ.
But the surgeon said in court that Mr Liew wanted to keep the kidney as the latter did not want to resume dialysis.
Eventually, on Aug 29, the kidney was removed.
By then, it was too late – the cancer ravaged Mr Liew’s body easily as he was then taking immuno-suppressants to prevent organ rejection.
But Mr Liew accepted his fate.
Mrs Liew said: “He told me not to be angry with God and to continue going to church.”
Although it has been almost eight years since Mr Liew died, he remains alive in his widow’s heart.
Mrs Liew said of the days after his death: “A friend suggested that I move out of our apartment immediately. It was quite unbearable for the first few weeks after his death. I moved out about two months later.”
She also went for grief therapy conducted by her pastor’s therapist wife.
MrLiew is buried in Kensico Cemetery in New York and she visits his grave four times a year – on his birthday, Easter, his death anniversary and Christmas.
Despite losing the case, Mrs Liew is thankful to law firm Daniel P Buttafuoco and Associates, which represented her for free.
She said: “Mr Dan Buttafuoco and Mr James McCarthy were kind enough to take over my case when no other lawyers cared to take over, knowing that there was a slim chance of winning.”