Their love story began in 1978. Ed Brown, a financial planner, was working on taxes at a client’s hotel in Dubuque. In walked Deb Maiers to apply for a job.
“We fell in love and married two years later,” says Brown.
Deb became a warm and loving stepmother to Brown’s two young daughters. The couple entertained friends at home and the family traveled to far-flung locations, including South Africa, Alaska, and Hawaii.
In 2007, Deb was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“She went into a remission, but had some liver issues,” recalls Brown. “We were referred to University of Iowa Health Care and Dr. Alan Gunderson. As her disease continued to progress, we were informed that she would need a liver transplant to save her life.”
Waiting for a transplant
In 2016, the Browns learned a matching donor was available.
“The courage we needed to fight the cancer in 2007 helped us through this liver transplant,” says Brown. “It took courage to face this head on.”
After the transplant at UI Hospitals & Clinics, the couple continued to travel, continued cultivating their beloved garden. Then last December, Deb was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer.
On Mother’s Day this year, while receiving treatment, Deb phoned Ed and said, “Get a paper and pencil, we’re going to write down the flowers you need to go buy, and where to plant them, and when I get home, you’ll have the garden right.”
Deb then told Ed she was tired and was going to take a nap.
“Ten minutes later, the nurse called,” says Brown. “She said Deb had passed in her sleep.”
The Dragonfly Transplant Fund
Deb had a passion for dragonflies—collecting dragonfly art and jewelry throughout her travels—and Ed is working to make sure her legacy lives on through The Dragonfly Transplant Fund. Established through the University of Iowa Center for Advancement, the fund supports transplant patients and their care givers.
Ed hopes everyone will consider becoming an organ donor. During the pandemic, he is helping current transplant patients and their families.
“Deb and I set up the Dragonfly Transplant Fund to give back to others,” he explains. “She and I celebrated in small ways after her transplant. We left her room, I pushed her in her wheelchair, and we went to the hospital coffee shop. Now, I’m donating 500 $5 Bread Garden gift cards so other transplant families can do the same.”
A simple act with a memorable impact
Alan Reed, MD, MBA, FACS, director of the UI Organ Transplant Center, treated Deb, and knew how much “normal” things meant to the couple.
“The simple act of getting out of bed and walking down to enjoy a cup of coffee and a cookie together was as life altering to them as a liver transplant,” he says. “Ed wants other people to enjoy that notion as well when they receive these gift cards from our social workers. I hope that message gets passed along with the cards.”
Alan E. Gunderson, MD, medical director of Liver Transplant & Digestive Health Clinics, says Ed has a unique perspective and a giving heart.
“Ed knows the experience surrounding transplant in a very different way from the medical team,” says Gunderson. “He knows what simple joys contribute to a sense of well-being in what can seem like a chaotic set of events.”
Helping others in need
Ed is excited to grow The Dragonfly Transplant Fund and would like to create a lounge at UI Hospitals & Clinics, a place of peace and calm, for other transplant families.
“When I think about Deb now, I think about celebrating what a great life she had,” he says. “She had 70 years. We had 40 of them together. And of the contributions that we made, the little ones, during our life, this is a big one.”
To learn more about organ donation, visit the Iowa Donor Network.