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Sue Bush
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Tim Bartlett Comes Home

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Timothy Bartlett is back home after a successful liver transplant surgery.[Photo by Jake Dabrowkski]
Florida – Former town Selectman Timothy Bartlett, 50, returned home on Dec. 17, nearly seven weeks after undergoing a successful liver transplant surgery at the Indiana University Medical Center in Indianapolis.

No Place Like Home

Bartlett and his wife Janet arrived at the Pittsfield airport on Saturday via an Angel Flight flight. The couple is very happy to be home, Timothy Bartlett said during a Dec. 19 interview.

“There’s no place like home,” Bartlett said. “Jan is happy to be here, and the kids [Corinne, an environmentalist and college student Hunter] are here. We missed each other something awful. We’re a close family and there’s a lot of hugs going on.”

The family wasted no time bringing holiday spirit to the home; Bartlett said that his wife put up the Christmas tree on Sunday. The family is planning a family-oriented holiday, he said.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” Bartlett said. “I’m tired and weak from being out of business so to speak for about eight months. I lost about 50 pounds through the whole thing. I am happy to be home.”

The Oct. 30 transplant surgery was Bartlett’s second liver transplant in less than 20 years.

Previous Transplant

His first life-saving surgery was done about 16 years ago at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Bartlett underwent the transplant after being diagnosed with sclerosing cholangitis, a progressive liver disease that can result in liver failure. The first transplant was successful and Bartlett was able to return to work. He did not drink alcoholic beverages, did not smoke, and he resumed normal activities for over 10 years.

But in February, Bartlett began feeling ill and subsequent medical tests indicated that sclerosing cholangitis was again affecting Bartlett’s liver. What, if anything, caused the disease to return is unknown.

Bartlett’s health began a rapid decline and a second liver transplant was recommended. Bartlett spent several months on the New England Organ Bank list as well as the United Network of Organ Sharing organ bank list but no organs became available to him. Bartlett’s physicians encouraged him to travel to Indianapolis in the hope that a liver might become available more quickly.

“I was on the list here for five and a half months and nothing happened,” Bartlett said. “I was getting worse and things were starting to happen. It was in everyone’s best interest for me to go [to Indianapolis] while I still had some strength.”

Bartlett left home for the Indianapolis Medical Center on Oct. 23; a donor liver was found just days after Bartlett was placed on an organ bank waiting list established in the region.

Bartlett’s primary care physician is in Pittsfield and Bartlett is scheduled for post-surgery follow-up care with the Boston doctors who were treating him prior to the trip to Indianapolis, Bartlett said.

Hoping for the Best

A Nov. 3 spaghetti supper fundraiser for Bartlett held at the BountiFare restaurant drew over 500 people and additional contributions have been delivered to the family, Bartlett said. The community response has been “humbling,” he added.

“We’ve been getting phone calls, people have been stopping by,” he said. “All the response and support have been quite humbling. You don’t think of yourself in the terms of what other people think of you. There are all these people who put on the spaghetti supper, all the people who bought tickets and made donations; I mean, some of these people sent $1000. It was quite a feeling to see all this support. It makes everything so much easier when you have support. You can get down to business and do what has to be done.”

Bartlett said that he has not inquired specifically about the chances of a recurrence of sclerosing cholangitis.

“There’s some things I don’t want to know,” he said. “I am optimistic that it won’t come back and I am hoping for the best.”

A Kid At Heart

Bartlett has erected a garage on his property with plans to launch a vehicle repair business in the months ahead. He said that he does wish his recuperation were occurring in the spring and summer months, because warmer weather encourages activity.

“In the winter, you don’t want to go out because it’s so cold,” he said. “You’d just as soon stay tucked under the blankets. It’s easier to recuperate when it’s warmer.”

But don’t confuse a reluctance to embrace the mountain town’s frigid winters with a lackluster lease on life. Bartlett has plans for his future, he said.

“I’m a kid at heart,” Bartlett said. “There are a lot of things I want to do with my son. He may be in college but I’m not done with him. My daughter is older. When kids are growing up, you try to teach them to be self-sufficient and she has the tools. All I can say is I’m not done yet, there’s a lot I want to do. I want to see my family grow.”

“I’d like to have another 30 years.”

Additional information about liver disease may be acquired at a www.liverfoundation.org Internet web site.

Information about the United Network of Organ Sharing is available at a www.unos.org web site. Information about the New England organ Bank is available at a www.neob.org web site.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 802-823-9367.
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