Monday, May 31, 2010

Kimberly Liew, widow of man who died from diseased kidney transplant, fulfilled hubby's dying wish

Kimberly Liew (r.), with her mother Gim Lian Soh, says all she can do now is 'let go.'


Kimberly Liew felt good Saturday for the first time in the nearly eight years since her husband died.

"I have a very heavy burden since his death," said Liew, 46, referring to the promise she made her husband, Vincent, on his deathbed.

"He said, 'Please let people know what happened to me so they don't go through this,'" she said.

Liew spoke a day after a Queens jury found NYU Medical Center not liable for her husband's death seven months after he received a kidney from a woman with uterine cancer.

But she said she still felt victory.

"His wish has been accomplished; that is the most important thing. Donor organs and doctors will be more careful ... patients will be more educated. I believe that.

"There's nobody to be blamed for this," she continued in her cheerful way. "It was hard for [surgeon Thomas Diflo] and hard for me. I sent him a card, saying I forgive him. ... I forgave him eight years ago. Letting go is all I can do now."

Liew, 46, said Friday was a "very difficult day, waiting for the verdict. I thought I was going to win the case."

After the jury announced that Diflo did not commit medical malpractice and awarded Liew no damages, she was stunned.

"I didn't know what was going on," Liew said. "I asked my sister-in-law sitting with me, 'Is that the verdict?' and she said, 'Yeah, you lost the case.'"

The verdict marked the end of a long, sad journey. Liew's 37-year-old husband was her life partner and they did everything together, from mundane housework to hanging out at Starbucks to taking vacations.

After his death, "It was very difficult," she recalled, crying. "I became sick. I went to the doctor many times and they couldn't find any diagnosis. My pastor's wife said I needed therapy and she helped me."

She sniffled and said, "Now my eyes are swollen," and laughed slightly.

When her husband received the transplant in April 2002, the couple thought it was the answer to their prayers, but instead it debilitated him.

His widow said Diflo told the patient he had the slimmest chance of contracting uterine cancer and should keep the diseased organ.

Diflo testified that he explained the risks and the patient insisted on keeping the kidney, but the widow disputes that.

The kidney was removed in August, and he died a month later. "I'm thinking how long would he have lived if [Diflo] removed it [right away]," she said wistfully.

She launched her long crusade to sue shortly after her husband died, but says her first lawyer botched the case.

She then went to lawyer Daniel Buttafuoco in 2008.

Liew was seeking $3 million for her husband's pain and suffering. She insists it wasn't about the money, but her husband's message.

"I went to dinner with my family last night, and everybody felt sorry about the verdict," she said, "but Vincent always said, 'God never makes mistakes,' and if He allowed the verdict, I have to accept it. Maybe He has a better future for me."

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