February 5, 2011

Father, daughter home healing after liver transplant

GARDINER — It's a sleepy household at 15 Pleasant St.

click image to enlarge

Forty-four days after a daughter-father liver transplant surgery, the Fles family is relaxing back in front of the stove at home in Gardiner. From left are family friend Sierra Hobart, tissue donor Broghann, Becky and her husband, the Rev. Jack Fles, and Keegan Fles.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

click image to enlarge

Family friend Sierra Hobart, top left, joins Becky and Keegan Fles behind the Rev. Jack Fles and his daughter Broghann, who donated a portion of her liver to her father.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Two members of the Fles family are recovering from an operation in which 18-year-old Broghann donated a portion of her liver to her father, the Rev. Jacob Fles, pastor of the Christ Church Episcopal parish.

The pair came home from Lahey Clinic, a teaching hospital in Burlington, Mass., two weeks ago.

Fles, 56, had Hepatitis C and pulmonary hypertension caused by liver disease, and his heart had become enlarged because it had difficulty moving blood from the liver to the lungs.

Fles said their recovery is on track but he has been left with a nagging pain, which doctors say is normal, and he's tired.

His daughter, on the other hand, has no pain, and doctors say her liver grew back in 10 days. But she has a difficult time sleeping.

"I'm exhausted," Broghann said sitting around the fireplace in the dining room with her family. "I can't fall asleep. I had four hours of sleep last night. I'm not on any medication anymore, but just can't sleep."

Becky Fles said her husband and daughter have been through a traumatic experience so it will take time before they're feeling up to par.

"They all want me to sleep with them," she said. "They sleep better when I'm there. Even my 9-year-old son wants me at night. If I'm lying next to him, he knows I'm not going anywhere. Sometimes we get up and trade beds."

The Fles matriarch said the family talks a lot about what they are all going through.

"I just wonder if there's not a lot of emotional trauma," she said. "We saw it in the front end of all this. What if dad dies? What if Broghann dies? And now we're on the other side of it and the flood gates are open. What now?"

The Rev. Fles said the surgery was a powerful, transforming experience. He said he can hardly believe it happened, and that they he and his daughter are both on the road to recovery.

"We've received such good care at Lahey and from our friends, and we're looking forward to the healing process being completed so we can get out of the house and live again," he said.

Grace E. Walton, a Gardiner Area High School administrative assistant, said she's been helping out.

"They'd do it for you in a minute," Walton said of the Fles family. "That's what this community is all about. Helping our own. We all stick together."

Becky Fles said she plans to become active in the New England Organ Donor Bank, which has asked the Fleses to share their story. Meanwhile, she is busy taking care of what she called her "wonderful family" -- especially her two daughters, one of whom put her life on hold while the other put her life on the line.

"How do you thank them for something like that?" she said. "We're just very fortunate to have great kids."

Walton helped organize a benefit raffle for the Fles family. Tickets, are on sale for #10 at the Gardiner Area High School. Prizes include two NASCAR race tickets, an overnight stay in the spa suite at the Senator Inn & Spa, a 32-inch flat screen TV and diamond earrings.

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