East Penn Press

Sunday, January 21, 2018
CONTRIBUTED PHOTOLower Macungie Township librarians Gregory Edwards and Jennifer Dell Beni are photographed together prior to the Nov. 2 surgery at University of Pennsylvania Hospital. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOLower Macungie Township librarians Gregory Edwards and Jennifer Dell Beni are photographed together prior to the Nov. 2 surgery at University of Pennsylvania Hospital.

Lower Macungie Township librarian receives the gift of life

Thursday, November 9, 2017 by MARK RECCEK Special to The Press in Local News

Lower Macungie Township Librarian Jennifer Dell Beni received a much needed piece of life from her colleague Gregory Edwards Nov. 2 at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. That piece of life was part of Edwards’ liver.

In an interview with The Press, Beni said she has been sick since 2004. Eventually, it was determined the current status of her liver was causing itchiness, jaundice and fatigue. In addition, she said the past year has led to weight loss, malabsorption of nutrients and constant pain throughout her body.

“I feel as if I have the flu every day,” she said. “It has been determined that I have cirrhosis of the liver of unknown origin, which basically means there is damage and scar tissue that cannot be reversed, but a cause cannot be determined.”

The surgery, Beni said, was predicted to take six to 10 hours for her and four to five hours for Edwards. The recovery time for Edwards will be about a month and anywhere from three to six months for Beni.

When Edwards learned about Beni’s disease, he asked about becoming a living donor. Beni provided Edwards with an application earlier this spring, which he acted upon back in August.

Over a two month period, Beni said, Edwards had a number of blood tests performed to ensure he was healthy and their blood types matched. Tests were also conducted to make sure Edwards’ liver was healthy and a compatible size and his heart was healthy enough for surgery.

According to Edwards, he offered his assistance not only because he was in a position to do so, but because of his family history of organ donation, with his father receiving a cornea transplant and sister donating tissue after she died in a vehicle accident in 2008.

“Put simply, I offered to donate because I could,” Edwards said. “Jen needed help and I was in a position to offer my help. I’d just got married, don’t have kids yet or other family responsibilities; I was in the perfect position to help.”

Beni said Edwards’ act of giving such an incredible gift of life overwhelmed her.

“It is truly amazing that Greg has offered such a selfless gift to me that will change my whole life,” Beni said. “I initially was shocked that even with not knowing Greg that long, he was willing to undergo major surgery for me when he became aware of my need. I still am shocked to this day and will never be able to find a way to truly thank him for offering to save my life.”

Edwards’ selfless act of donating part of his liver has created a strong sense of community.

“We have met many wonderful people who shared their stories with us, and we have been given so many well wishes and so much support,” Beni said. “Best of all, awareness of the need for organ donation has increased, so that many more lives could potentially be saved by either living or deceased donors.”

A GoFundMe account has been set up for Beni and Edwards’ expenses at https://www.gofundme.com/liver-fund-to-support-jen-greg. Their colleagues have set up this fund to support items not covered by medical insurance such as travel, lodging, food and household help. As of Nov. 6, the fund had reached $9,941 of a $7,500 goal.

Editor’s Note: Susan Nenstiel is providing updates to the GoFundMe page. On Nov. 3, Nenstiel reported the surgery went well and both Beni and Edwards were expected to begin the process of getting out of bed, sitting in chairs and begin walking. An update Nov. 7 said both were progressing well. Other notes of encouragement have been posted on the page as well.