Norman and Phyllis Breen

Norman and Phyllis Breen

Phyllis & Norman Breen
Rochester, NY

Five years ago, Norm Breen got the call that would save his life. It was 3 a.m. when Dr. Leway Chen phoned to tell Norm a heart was available for transplant. By 10 a.m., Dr. Todd Massey arrived at Strong Memorial Hospital with the heart he had personally retrieved from the Midwest that morning, and Norm’s transplant was under way.

Just two and a half weeks later, Norm was discharged, and since then, he has achieved his goal of not returning to Strong—at least not as an admitted patient. He has been back plenty of times as a volunteer, however.

Before his surgery, Norm was visited by a former heart transplant patient. He told Norm what he could expect and answered his questions. Now, Norm shares his own experience with other patients awaiting transplants at Strong. He also volunteers for Harbor House, a facility that houses out-of-town heart-transplant patients and their families, and its annual fundraising event called “And the Beat Goes On…”

Beyond volunteering, Norm and his wife, Phyllis, have become generous supporters of the Division of Cardiology through their George Eastman Circle membership. They are passionate about supporting the heart research being done at the Aab Cardiovascular Research Institute and strengthening the transplant program at the Medical Center. “I’m helping out of gratitude,” says Norm. “People donated before me, so I could go through this process, have the transplant surgery, and be here for my family. Now I want to do the same and help others.”

Through this experience, the couple gained a tremendous appreciation for the doctors and staff who treated Norm, including cardiologists Dr. Chen and Dr. Jeffrey Alexis. “The doctors and staff are all excellent, and we can’t say enough about them,” says Phyllis. “Norm is alive today because of them. The amazing thing is that a facility like this is in Rochester, and we didn’t have to go to Cleveland or somewhere far away. We are truly blessed beyond measure.”


—Nancy Zawacki, May 2017

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