Saint Faustina, Our Intercessor

By Marc Massery

For many years, Bernard Sarkisian of Newark, Delaware, was addicted to drugs. In 2000, he got sober, and after he did, he became a therapist and worked as an inpatient counselor for those in drug rehabilitation. 

Unfortunately, during the 1970s, Bernard had contracted hepatitis C from an intravenous needle. At the time, there wasn’t a cure for this disease. “I had kind of earned my position of being in a very tenuous physical condition. I got sicker and sicker,” he said. “I had been on a transplant list for years, waiting. Livers are hard to come by.”

In January 2012, Bernard was hospitalized. He had been in the hospital three weeks when doctors came to him in the intensive care unit and told him there were still no livers available. Even if there were, they doubted he would survive surgery.

So they decided they would need to intubate Bernard to keep him going. Before they did, Bernard’s brother Kevin assured him, “You know, you don’t have to do this. If you don’t want to, we understand.” 

“No, I am OK,” Bernard said. “I want to keep fighting.” 

A couple days later, on Jan. 24, 2012, doctors decided to send Bernard to a nursing home to be with hospice care. He faced death with more confidence than most. “I had a lot of people praying for me,” he said. “I had done what I thought was the best I could, recovering from intravenous drug use, and serving the public and people who were struggling through the same thing. I thought, ‘Well, OK. This is it.’ I was kind of sad, but I was also curious [about death].”

The following day, when Bernard was supposed to leave for the nursing home, he got a call from the American Liver Foundation. They told him the liver of a 4-year-old child who had tragically passed away was available and his blood type. 

He said, “When I got the call, there was part of me that said, ‘Are you kidding me? I have to fight again?’ I literally had to turn my will back and say, ‘OK, are you going to fight or not?’”

Instead of going to a nursing home and being put on hospice care, Bernard decided to get ready to undergo surgery. But his brother Kevin questioned the doctors, “How can that possibly work, a 4-and-a-half-year-old child’s liver in a 59-year-old body?”

But they said it was the best chance Bernard had. “If he dies on the table, he dies on the table,” the doctor said. But Bernard survived. “I was transplanted, and my life was saved,” he said. 

A few years later, Kevin’s health started to decline. “He developed a type of cirrhosis that’s unrelated to drugs or alcohol,” Bernard said. Just like his brother before him, Kevin found himself on a waiting list to receive a new liver, too. 

“He got sicker and sicker,” Bernard recalled. “He began to not know where he was. His logic, his memory, all those things begin to fail because of encephalopathy.”

In March 2019, doctors finally located a new liver for Kevin. But he had more complications than Bernard did. Also, he was significantly older than Bernard had been at the time of his transplant. 

So, about a week or so before his surgery, Bernard made a trip to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. 

“I called Kevin and told him I lit a candle for him. He was familiar with [Divine Mercy]. He is a devout Catholic. He was excited about that,” Bernard said. “It’s hard to even recall it without crying. But I was in tears asking for help.”

Bernard was the first to see Kevin after surgery. “I went down the hall. They told me not to. I just stood there and wouldn’t leave. … I just wanted to make sure my brother was all right,” he said. 

Today, both Bernard and Kevin are alive and well. “I asked St. Faustina specifically, because she said if you come to me with a petition, I’ll take it to the Lord. … It’s miraculous,” he said. 
 

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