LEWISTON — A mother of four is recovering in Boston after a grueling 18-month wait for a new heart.

Paul and Fern Colon sat at their dinner table Sunday night in Lewiston with their son-in-law, Bruce Labrecque, after visiting their daughter, Mary Ellen Labrecque, at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston on Saturday.

The Labrecques’ children, Serenity, 12, Kyle, 13, Dylan, 13, and Tabby, 7, watched a movie in the living room, like any other kids would.

“It’s become normal to them,” Fern Colon said of the children not seeing their mother for long periods of time.

“This past week has been a big turning point,” Paul Colon said of his daughter, who had just been brought out of a medically induced coma on Thursday following her surgery at 12:30 a.m. on Saturday.

The family said that aside from a couple breaks, Labrecque had been in the hospital for approximately 15 weeks and is not expected to be back home for about another month.


Labrecque’s problems began in March 2013, when the former Montello Commons nurse — who thought she was just having some nausea symptoms — was told she’d had a heart attack, which would lead to heart failure.

Labrecque’s right and left ventricles had stopped working.

After two weeks in a medically induced coma and weeks of recovery, Labrecque was sent home with a 45-pound apparatus that pumped her blood until a suitable heart donor could be found.

Finding a heart was hard enough for Labrecque —  and finding the right one proved to be even more difficult. Bruce Labrecque said the first heart to come along was “diseased” while a second had belonged to a heroin addict. Both ended up being used for other patients but weren’t right for Labrecque.

Fern Colon said her daughter was offered the diseased heart first — but her daughter said she already had one.

“I got the call 4:30 Friday afternoon,” Bruce Labrecque said. “I was at work and she calls and she says, ‘It’s happening — it’s happening right now, they’re prepping me for surgery.'”


Regarding their visit Saturday, Colon said, “She looked good — she was in pain, obviously. It’s almost like giving birth all over again. You know, you get a live baby and my daughter is going to live now — it’s a strange feeling.”

Colon said she and her son, Anthony, had both visited her daughter, all of whom are nurses in the same family.

Bruce Labrecque said Mary Ellen’s new heart brings not only elation, but an additional set of family worries. Since the couple’s biological child was stillborn in August 1997, Mary Ellen’s fear was, if my body rejected my own son, how’s it going to react to a new heart?

Labrecque said doctors are still chasing down some internal bleeding issues, something he said is difficult to do since Mary Ellen has antiphospholipid syndrome, a condition that causes blood clots.

Labrecque said Mary Ellen is on a constant stream of anticoagulant medications to prevent clotting, but when they take her off that medication to operate, any internal bleeding seals itself up.

Despite the bleeding issues, Labrecque said, “She’s progressing well — she’s progressing a little bit more every day, and that’s what (the doctors are) expecting.” Doctors were supposed to get Mary Ellen on her feet that day, he said.


A family of faith, Fern Colon said the family began a Facebook page for their daughter, “Prayers for Mary Ellen.” She said the family has relied heavily upon the prayers of the church and others throughout this ordeal.

Colon said she and Paul have been attending Holy Cross Church in Lewiston.

“We believe a lot in divine mercy and we’ve been praying a lot — a lot — a lot,” Colon said. “I have no question in my mind that (God) wouldn’t come through and save her.”

Colon said of Mary Ellen’s attitude throughout the ordeal, “You would think that everything was fine.” Throughout her issues with internal bleeding and trying to find an appropriate heart, she said that her daughter always wore a smile and joked with hospital staff.

Colon said she has been helping out with watching the kids, who attend school in Greene. She picks them up and looks after them until Labrecque gets out of work at 8 p.m.

“Bruce is a good daddy,” Colon said. “He takes good care of them.”

Daughter Serenity wrote a poem in school about her mother and her concern about her mom being alone.

Reflecting on her daughter’s recovery and second chance, Colon said, “You just gotta have faith.”


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