- This article was originally featured in the Brigham Bulletin.
Florina Haimovici, MD, director of the Brigham’s Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Psychiatric Clinic and a psychiatrist with Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital’s Consultation Liaison Service, smiled, wiping a tear from her eye as she reflected on how much the Brigham community meant to her and her family.
It was the summer of 2020, and Haimovici’s husband, Doru Iancovici, MD, a primary care physician (PCP) on the North Shore, began experiencing kidney failure. Following some testing, Haimovici sent her husband’s lab results to Adina Voiculescu, MD, a Brigham nephrologist, who saw him immediately. By August of 2020, Iancovici was placed on the kidney transplant list.
In December, Iancovici’s health took a turn for the worst and he started peritoneal dialysis, a treatment that removes waste from the blood when the kidneys can no longer do it themselves.
Serving generations of families, Iancovici had worked as a PCP on the North Shore for more than thirty years. Despite the rapid deterioration of his health, he still went to work every day to see patients, receiving dialysis during breaks in his schedule.
After weeks passed without a donor, a social worker advised Haimovici to spread the word about her husband’s need for a kidney. Haimovici sent a few emails to potential donors.
During this time, one of Iancovici’s nurses offered to donate her kidney, but she, unfortunately, was not a good match. Later, a patient of Iancovici also volunteered to donate her kidney, telling him that because he cared for her for twenty-five years, she’d like to ensure that he can continue to provide for her and future patients. Despite these tremendous efforts, she was also not the right fit either.
One day, Haimovici’s now former office manager, Diane Touhy, wrote an email to staff explaining what Haimovici’s family was going through a and sharing a link to the Brigham’s kidney donor site for anyone interested in learning more.
Haimovici soon received an outpouring of emails from across the Brigham.
“I can’t tell you how much support I received from my staff and colleagues during this process,” said Haimovici. “Although we were closing our offices due to the pandemic, my colleagues continued to check on me every single day.”
A Donor Identified
In May, Haimovici’s husband received a phone call from the Brigham’s kidney donor practice manager, letting him know that they had identified a donor. The donor was a perfect match and the practice manager asked Haimovici and Iancovici if they would like to know the donor.
“Of course we wanted to know,” said Haimovici.
A few days later, Touhy invited Haimovici to her office at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital (BWFH). When Haimovici arrived, her office assistant, Nichole Rouse, and Touhy were waiting for her with a camera in hand.
“I had no idea what was going to happen next,” said Haimovici.
Rouse handed Haimovici a small box decorated with hearts and flowers. The box read, “God bless you, a new beginning.” In a card attached to the box, Rouse revealed that she was the donor.
Rouse expressed that she was impressed by the passion, tender love and care Haimovici and her husband devoted to their relationships with patients and staff.
“Coming from a family in medicine, I learned early on what exceptional care looks like,” said Rouse. “From the way her patients talked about her, it’s always been clear to me that Dr. Haimovici treats everyone like family. I got the impression that her husband practices that same compassion.”
Rouse is twenty-eight years old and a mother to a three-year-old daughter. Haimovici later found out that she tried to donate a kidney a couple years ago to a young patient in North Carolina but wasn’t a match. This time around, Rouse asked to be anonymous initially to avoid potentially disappointing Haimovici.
“Nichole is an exceptional person,” said Haimovici. “We began working together during the lockdown and she would come into the office a few days a week. She always asked me questions about my family and I’d show her pictures of my grandchildren. She showed me pictures of her daughter and, as a result, we built a really meaningful relationship.”
The transplant took place one day before Haimovici’s birthday. The next day she woke up early, making breakfast for her husband and Rouse, then spent the morning with Rouse as she recovered from the operation.
“That morning was very healing for both of us; I got the chance to know her so much better,” said Haimovici.
Haimovici returned home that afternoon, planning on coming back to the hospital at night to check on her husband when Rouse’s boyfriend texted asking if she’d join them for dinner and to visit Rouse.
Upon arrival, Rouse’s boyfriend greeted Haimovici with a meal and a birthday present.
“They thought that it wasn’t fair that I’d have to eat dinner alone on my birthday,” said Haimovici. “I was so touched. Because of moments like these, we are now a family.”
‘The Brigham is My Family’
Haimovici spoke of the unconditional support she received from her colleagues throughout this journey. She said she could not have made it through this process without the backing of her department.
Colleagues like David Silbersweig, MD, chair of the Department of Psychiatry; David Gitlin, MD, vice-chair for clinical programs in the Department of Psychiatry; John Fromson, MD, chief of the Department of Psychiatry at BWFH; Sejal Shah, chief of the Division of Medical Psychiatry; and Naomi Schmeltzer, director of the Division of Medical Psychiatry at BWFH, along with her staff and trainees, provided her with continuous comfort throughout the transplant process.
“They were there for Nichole and me every single day,” said Haimovici. “Nichole’s managers, Vanessa Pugh and Diane Touhy, and her colleagues were so understanding, always letting her leave work to go to appointments.”
The day before the transplant, the president of BWFH, David McCready, and Fromson came into the office and gave Rouse a hug. Gitlin also visited Iancovici every day while admitted to the hospital.
“I cannot thank the transplant team enough,” said Hamiovici. “Dr. Stefan Tullius and his team provided my husband with exceptional care, compassion and dedication and so many doctors gave me their personal cell phone to call at any time.”
After the transplant, Haimovici and her family stayed in close contact with Rouse and her partner, and the four remain close friends today.
“I have been working at Brigham and Women’s Hospital for thirty-five years,” said Haimovici. “I am moved by the collegiality, humanity and support I received when I needed help. The Brigham is my family.”