This week, I met with Brian Flynn for a no-holds-barred interview on his run for Congress, his business ventures, a family tragedy, a life of activism, civic engagement, and the donation of not one, but two living organs. All that, and more, from Brian's home in Elka Park, NY.
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Welcome back to cats cast, the BI weekly podcast featuring local interviews, arts and culture and sustainability in the Catskill Mountains at Hudson Valley. Can you hear me now beautiful? What a gorgeous voice. This week, I sat with Brian Flynn in person for a no holds barred interview on his run for Congress, his business ventures, a family tragedy, activism, community service, and the donation of not one but two living organs. All that and more from Brian's home in Elk Park, New York. My name is Brian Flynn, and we are in the beautiful Catskill Mountains in Elk Park, New York, which is in the town of Hunter, how did you find this house or this property? How did that all come about? Like most things with me, it usually comes down to having too much to drink. So we came up to see friends up here who have been here for years and they said, Hey, we'd love to have you come to the Catskills and my father grew up coming to the Catskills. So I'd already heard about it as a kid. So we came to visit our friends right here in Oak Park. And it was a beautiful fall weekend. And we played tennis, we went hiking, they were having a afternoon barbecue and party. I said, Oh my god, this is heaven. And again, maybe I had one glass of wine too many. But later on that evening, I had agreed to rebuild a Victorian house that had burned down about three or four years beforehand. This community is a community have about 20 homes. And they're all built around 1892. And so one of the homes had burned down and I decided that I was going to rebuild a Victorian from scratch. And here we are, it's a beautiful home. How long did the process take? Well, I would run out of money every six months or so. So it took longer than it should have. And of course building Victorian they stopped building them for good reason. because everything's custom. So it took about two and a half years, but it was well worth it. And Amy has all the taste and she and our wonderful architect, Lynn Gaffney did a beautiful job designing a home that on the outside looks much like the other homes, even the paint is peeling now like the other homes in the area, but at the same time, the inside is much larger and doesn't have the small rooms that are reminiscent of Victorians. What's this community like it has a long history. What's it like living here, it's magical. We're very lucky to have found it. A lot of the people were seasonal, and we decided to move here full time about four or five years ago, after coming up on weekends as my career evolved, and I could work more from home and work remotely even before COVID. But now a lot of people are here full time as well based on COVID, but some of them have decided to stay anyway. What's great about it is the 20 homeshare, about 1000 acres, which we have for hiking and just beautiful waterfalls and there's tennis courts and a pool and all that. And there's also a bar and restaurant and a little area to have parties. So during the summer, it's 10 weekends have some sort of event every weekend. So from an Oktoberfest to July 4 barbecue to black tie events, which are just a ton of fun and our kids really loved growing up here and now. They both go to the local high school in town which is terrific school and have developed great friendships outside of Elko park in the greater Hunter tannersville area. So we lucked out and feel very fortunate. first time we met was in 2017. You and I and your wife Amy were cast members in the world war two radio Christmas, and he played the Bing Crosby character I think or someone models. Yes, they tried to have me avoid singing, which is a good idea. Everyone in my family can sing except for me. That was at Phoenicia Playhouse and you've done a few productions there. Yeah, the finish Playhouse is another great little gem here in the Catskills. Amy's done a few shows, she's directed shows there. I've done a few show there. My favorite story was when Amy was doing Mamma Mia. And it was a Sunday morning. The matinee was at two o'clock and one of the men in the play, got sick and couldn't do it. The freezer players as you know does not have understudies. So, Amy volunteered me to learn the part in three hours and go on stage and do it and they said, Oh, you know, it's community theater, you can carry your carry your script, I said, I will not carry my script. I will learn the part and do it. And the gentleman who is doing it had chosen to do an American accent. The character is written as a British character and I'm reading the lines. I said, Oh wait, he's from London. I said, Oh, we change that. I said, No, we're going back to that. So I affected a bad British accent and learn depart in three hours. And just it was so great. People were so generous in the audience and the other cast members as I was fumbling about onstage. It's amazing, great job. Not having seen it, you did a great job. But you have a long connection to theatre or community theater being part of it and you went to college or at least had a minor in it right. So I went to college thinking that I was an athlete, and I played tennis at Georgetown for two years and then I blew out my knee during the summer. Software Engineer. So vytenis thing was kind of done. I wasn't very good anyway. So I always wanted to do theater. And I did a little bit when I was a kid. But in my family, it was more about sports when I was in high school. So I went to an audition for a role. And I didn't tell anyone, and none. I didn't know anybody in the theatre department at the time. And it was for Equus. There's people playing horses, and they have costumes. And it's part of the whole conceit of the play developed by the playwright. And it's a terrific, terrific show. But I'm being very quiet and I go in for my first audition ever. And it's of course, it's college theater. So people take it very seriously. And they walk in and it's dark, and the director and the producer sitting up in the audience, and they've got a little, just a little desk light on. So there's just these voices in the dark telling me what to do. So I go in, I read for a few parts and then they say, okay, Brian, there's a movement in this play. My sound guy, my new movement, I said, Okay, well, we'd like to see how you move. Alright, great. What I got to do, they said, Okay, don't think about it. Just express through movement, the birth, life and death of a deer. So I thought, well, I don't even know who they are. And I got nothing to lose. So I did what was arguably probably a really bad and embarrassing version of the birth life and death of a deer. And of course, I got shot at the end to channel the Bambi situation. I did not get a part as a horse but I did get one of the sporting league and I ended up monitoring and theater and absolutely loving it and did dozen plus shows me last few years of Georgetown and develop great friendships from that and sort of continued that passion. And a lot of it was reignited up here when we came to the Catskills because it's actually hard to do. community theater, living in a city but up here there's a more welcoming and forgiving audience. Let's put it that way. So I've been able to to reignite that passion. I thought I saw some deer like moves on that stage for World War Two Christmas. I was so bad. It's so embarrassing. Well, I had so much fun working with you on World War Two Christmas that five months later, we went on tour together. I don't know if you remember this, but there were three stops on the tour. Troy, liberty and Oneonta this was the Brian Flynn for Congress. Medicare for all tour. Yes. Got memory. So you were running for congress against our soon to be one term congressman john Fastow and it was it was a crowded field. There were seven of you around Yeah, that primary. Yeah. And this this tour we did together, my only role was to run sound was espousing the benefits of Medicare for all with a panel of highly knowledgeable doctors and experts. What made you throw your hat into that ring to begin with? I had forgotten we were on tour together. I have this image, of course, that's going around a tour bus. staying up late. Yeah, exactly. You got to what we did on tour. So I've always been involved in activism and been involved in politics, often as someone who either raised money or helped candidates. In fact, I helped Senator Gillibrand when she first ran in this area for Congress back in 2006, I guess it was. So all that activism and everything I'd done throughout my life, including advocating for Medicare for all since around 2004. I decided, Okay, well, you know, why don't I see if I could actually take it to the next step and put that passion that I had for it into action. And then of course, I'm very type a and and I didn't just kind of dabble I dove in, I quit my day job and went for it to see if I could make it and then ended up the field kept growing and growing, and ended up being seven people who, all of whom have become friends through the process. You know, it was fun when they were like sparring partners, and a bunch of talented people. And I can't tell you how excited I am that congressman Delgado not only won, but he's won again, won a second term. And what's great about him winning is that I really believe he had the best sense of humor, because he would always laugh at my jokes First and most enthusiastically, and he's a terrific congressman and a great person. Why was Medicare for all such a centerpiece of your platform, I believe fundamentally, that health care is the right, similar to a public education is a right and something we value as a society. And it's something we should invest in and provide for. But in addition to that, as a business person, I can't stand the fact that we waste so much money and resources with a bureaucracy of health insurance, and honestly the corruption of the health insurance industry. And I think that small business owners and entrepreneurs and individuals would have more power if they weren't relying on their employer for health insurance. And it's something that just is maddening to me. And in fact, I've set up a nonprofit once I stopped running for congress that's exclusively focused on advocating for Medicare for All. So we produce information and reports and just try to keep advocating for because in the end, I think we'll get there but you really have to hasten it and move it along. Because it shouldn't be that you're so tied to your employer, and it would be cheaper for everyone. It would be more efficient, and you'd get better health outcomes. So it seems to me that it's just the most rational. In addition to the moral aspects. It's also the most rational and the most economically beneficial. And I can vouch because I listened to all three, as you were on tour, and I learned a lot is Antonio Delgado doing any of the things that you had hoped to do in that position? Yeah, he's doing a lot better than I would have. He's very hard working. And yes, I'm very hard working as well. But he is better as part of a deliberative body. He does work extremely well with other people. I've been a president of a number of companies and small and large, and I've learned through the process, I'm actually not the most collaborative and deliberative person, I'm much more of a driver. And he is shown that he can get things done by working with others by keeping his constituents and top of mind. So I actually think the skills that he brought to the table, in addition to his innate way of dealing with people has made him really successful. So I, he is much better than I would have been. Guess we'll never really know, though. No, no, we will not. I like to say that people have spoken. I've learned my lesson. Brian's political activism goes back to his college years, when in 1988, his brother JP was killed in a terrorist bombing of Penang 103, over Lockerbie, Scotland. Is it okay, if we talk a little bit about your brother? Yeah, of course. Yeah. So your political activism goes back a long way? Did it start with Pan Am 103? And was that a motivation for you getting into activism politics, or was it already in you, my mother was an activist when I was growing up. So I add that model, if she was always politically active, even before she had kids, so I had that person to emulate. But I was 19 years old, and I wasn't very politically active as a 19 year old when my brother was killed. I was a sophomore in college. And when it happened, I went from being the somewhat carefree college student, just doing what self indulgent college students doing to all of a sudden, being thrown into an international incident, where I'm sitting in Lockerbie, Scotland, and my mother is yelling at Margaret Thatcher, and I'm trying to tell her to calm down, and she's saying that justice must be done. And I remember her sitting on the couch one night, not we weren't getting a lot of sleep at the time. And I remember her speaking to a cabinet secretary, my son will not by in vain, we will find out who did this, and we will bring them to justice. And I remember saying, Okay, well, this is our life now. And this is what we're called to do. And my sisters were younger. And my father took more of a supportive role. But I jumped right in with my mother. And I remember, weeks later, I was at a protest in front of the White House, because they weren't releasing information, there was a lot of things that could have been done to prevent the bombing. And we actually lobbied to get them to establish a presidential commission, which did actually come out and definitively say that the bombing could have been prevented. If the airline pan-am, it actually followed the security protocols that were already in place. So to have your brother murdered in an act of war, but also knowing that because of greed, it could have been prevented, and it wasn't all of those things, I guess, sparked an interest in me and kind of made me very passionate about getting involved and being an activist. And I was just talking to my kids the other day about, and it's a silly commercial from, I think it's Volkswagen in life, there are passengers that are drivers. And I think I learned, like my mother that I am definitely a driver and need to do something about it and to be involved and to take a very proactive approach what came out of your activism at that time. So it led to improvements. First and foremost, we were able to hold pan-am responsible, and in fact, we helped drive them into bankruptcy, because throughout the organization, we're able to prove gross negligence and willful misconduct, which is very difficult to prove. We were also able to establish new security protocols, many of which, if they had followed all the recommendations that we as family members and advocates and made, many of them would have prevented September 11. We also lobbied to have us hold the states that sponsored terrorism responsible. So there were unilateral sanctions that were put on Libya, when it was determined that they were behind the bombing. And in fact, they indicted the bombers and the CO conspirators and eventually held moammar qaddafi responsible as well. That would never have happened without the legwork of the family members and went on for 20 plus years, our advocacy work, we had one guy in prison, and one guy got off and I remember sitting in, capsized in the Netherlands when the verdict was read. And one of them was convicted. And I wrote an op ed for the Wall Street Journal is saying that and remember this was February 2001. That we have to take seriously the threat of terrorism and not just put one guy in prison but to hold the states that sponsored Terrorism responsible? And what will it take for us to take this threat? Seriously, we'll take another USS Cole, another Lockerbie or something far worse. So a few months later, when September 11 happened when people searched terrorism, my name came up. And in fact, I spent that day September 11, doing radio shows, because I'd learned so much about terrorism and the threats that are out there who could have been behind it and what could have been done to prevent it. So it kind of connected the two largest acts of terrorism against the United States were kind of woven together by those experiences. And so that incident was a failure on the part of the airline and the government. And I guess multiple parties were partly to blame. Exactly. So a lot of the TSA, for example, didn't exist before September 11, we had suggested that prior to that the airline's themselves paid for the security. So there was inconsistency in how it was delivered the policies that we suggested, like matching people to bags, doing background checks, all that stuff, if we put in place it could have prevented 911, what was the biggest thing that Pan Am did wrong, that you say would have prevented this from happening, they were supposed to match interline bags. So these are bags that go from one airline to another, and they're supposed to match them to passengers. And that went that did exist. And they explicitly chose not to do that. And they, they were supposed to hand check those types of bags. And they explicitly took the people off of that, even though they said they were doing they even put on a security fee. Because the threat of terrorism in the 1980s was pretty severe. They put on a security fee, and never used that money to in fact, do anything to improve security. So you were a college student where Georgetown and your brother was at Colgate he was at Colgate and he was part of the Syracuse program, studying in London. He was on his way back for Christmas. It was December 21. I went to Syracuse in the mid 90s. And was aware of this largely through what they have now, which is the scholarship scholarship. Oh, yeah, this the Scholars Program. Sure. And each of the students 35 students here, brother being one of them led to a scholarship for 35 students every year, Syracuse has done an incredible job as a great school, not just because you went there was a great school even without you going there. And the administration, there was incredible, such a great support network for the families, and also the Scholar Program. So we often hear from the individuals who get the scholarship in his name. And it's just such a great connection. And they've done just an excellent job. And it's a great institution. Tell me just a little bit about your brother, I love talking about him because he was the boy next door, he was the nice one. And there's the you know, the good die young. And I remember when he died, I can even feel I've ever been in a memorial service and people looking at me. And I can see in their eyes, I might have imagined this or projected this, or whatever. But I think Oh right, of course, the nice one got killed, I've always been sharper edged. Then he was he was a tennis coach, and he was a basketball coach, he took care of the kids and, and was just really a sweet, sweet guy, and would be a good mentor to other teens and everything. And so when he died, it was that sweet kid was the one who was killed. So that was really hard on the community, and especially my parents, and also took me into a different light. I was a youngest child for five years before my sisters were born, I spent about 15 years as a middle child, and all of a sudden, I was thrown into being an oldest child. And I didn't I had definitely I was a much better middle child than an older child. That was a new role that had to play. And I remember this very explicitly that I was looking for meaning whatever. And I read a newspaper A few days after he died that the principal of the school was talking about him that daily news that interviewed him and he basically said JP Flynn was the type of man who would have made a difference. So then I took it, that he was speaking to me. And that was what I was supposed to do is not just be a self indulgent college student, but figure out how I can make a difference in life. And that's kind of led to this constant nagging thing in my ethos that I have to do more to make a difference. And that's a good thing. For example, I, I still run a basketball program on Saturday mornings in the winter for some kids. And that's what he would have done. And so I was able to kind of keep his spirit alive and do that I absolutely love and I love that whole thing. It's like three or four hours a whole family does. And the kids come and they ref the games and all that it's become a family affair where we go. And so I like the idea of keeping his spirit alive that way. What's the importance of political activism, or at least civic engagement for the every person? It's funny, I wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review about whether you should talk about politics at work. The number of people were asked to write opinions. And I wrote that you should because I think if people actually got more passionate about and talked about it more, they'd feel more engaged and feel the ownership of it. Because I've always felt that it's easy to say, Oh, I don't want to talk about politics or, or to step away from it and say it's not healthy and growing up in an Irish family. You can't go to dinner because the food is usually not that good. But the conversation and the debate and the They use the expression from Ireland to crack is it's amazing, right? So I remember you couldn't, especially with my mother, she's very, she's actually a successful extemporaneous speaker. like she'd been trophies for winning extemporary speaking competitions. So you'd come to Sunday dinner and you better have had your arguments lined up. And when I'm talking like eight, nine years old, you know, she would ask us questions, and she's very argumentative, understandably. And so she would pick fights and she would switch sides during a discussion in order to challenge you to hone and sharpen your arguments, the that type of sense of being involved and being engaged and then debating it and talking about it. It is an Irish tradition, but it's also become part of our upbringing. I'm not as good as my mother was at it, but I I tried to with my kids, but I think if you're not engaged and and participating in your community, whether it's an abroad issue like black lives matter that you're you're part of an issue that's nationwide and even global, or even just in your town about issues in your individual community. You really start to not be connected and not being part of something bigger than yourself. And that's always what drives me to it. After the break Brian's business during the pandemic, a double organ donation, and a peek at the horizon. This episode is sponsored by the Phoenicia Playhouse, a historic 150 seat community Playhouse that's home to community theater, film screenings, local community events, road productions and corporate meetings. The Playhouse is located in the beautiful hamlet of Phoenicia, New York, Find out more at Phoenicia, playhouse.com, and on Facebook and Instagram. Cats cast is sponsored by the central Catskills Chamber of Commerce, providing services to businesses, community organizations and local governments in the central Catskills region. Follow the central Catskills Chamber of Commerce on Facebook, and sign up for a weekly email of local events at Central catskills.org. So political advocacy, community theater, these these things, these things, don't pay the bills. So occurs to me that, especially if you've seen me in any theater, but your Medicare for all platform may have come out of your let's say, day job. So what do you what do you do for a living? Brian, I've been an entrepreneur for decades, and it's very hard work. And I always tell people to say I think or to start my own business. And I always say, you know, if you don't have to, and if there's anything else you can do and be reasonably happy. Try that because it's it's very stressful, and it's very hard. And any entrepreneur would tell you that, but some of some people just can't do otherwise. So I bought in the late 90s, I started my first one of my first companies with some friends. And then it's been that way ever since. And then tried to go back and get a job in marketing, in financial services after the.com bust. And I went in life and I really would love this job is very excited to have like a paycheck again and not have to worry about things and they said, you know, you really qualified and we'd love to have you but we think that soon as your next entrepreneur idea comes up, you're just going to leave. And I was like, No, really, I just want to go to meetings, and I just want to be part of a team. And really I don't want to I don't want to do that anymore. And I didn't get the job. And there may have been other reasons. Who knows. But I said Amy, I said somebody burned the ships. I didn't what somebody did, and I can't go back. So I haven't really had a traditional corporate job since the late 90s. One of the companies that I started was a business advisory firm with someone called edge slosberg. And it was creatively named Schlosberg Flynn was the name of our company. And one of the company that I found was a medical device manufacturing company. And I helped stabilize and turn the company around and help figure out a growth plan and eventually became president of that company. And we grew it from $20 million to over $100 million. It was really fun. And it was a great experience. And they were great people working there. And I I learned a lot of how my ability to drive things to completion can be used in that environment effectively to help lead people and to help keep them focused and to make a difference. So it was it was a great experience. And now I'm doing the same thing. Again, we've taken a company for around 10 to $12 million. We got involved in 2018. And now we're continue to grow that and we have three factories around the country that make medical devices including test kits for COVID. So it's been a busy and challenging year for us like it has for most people. So you're a busy entrepreneur. You're politically active. You do a little community theater. Show toad. We went on tour. And then with all the extra time you have quite the drive for volunteerism, altruism, you and Amy, that seems to be an important thing for both of you. Yep. Yes. And then on the cusp of your 50th birthday. You thought I can do more? Yeah. Tell me about the kidney you used to have. I told you earlier that whenever whenever I have that second Her third Margarita, it leads to questionable decisions afterwards. But often they all work out. So I was out with a work friend. And I did have that third Margarita, and I go back to my room and go to Facebook. And also I saw a post from a friend of mine who was very sick. I didn't know this. And she needed a kidney. And it was all these comments in there. And I said, Oh, my God, the poor thing. I had no idea. And I'm way down in the comments like 164 comments, and I wrote, hey, I'm a universal donor for blood, does that help for donating kidneys? And I didn't, I mean, I didn't really mean it. So I close the computer. And I wake up in the morning, and I noticed she responded to me and said, Yes, it does. Here's the phone number to call to get tested. Oh, so I call and I got tested. And eventually we were a match. And fortunately for me, her husband also was a match. And he just had to pass a test that he couldn't get past and eventually got through the test. And he ended up giving her kidney and she's doing great. So that was perfect. So after I lose the primary election, after investing, you know, your half of my life going on tour with you. I said, You know, I really want to do something before I turned 50. And you know, I really don't think I've done enough in my life. And maybe it's survivor guilt since my brother died that, you know, he would have done more or, you know, I should do more than just kind of bothering me. And I'm like, maybe it's like a midlife crisis. And so I said to me, you know, maybe before I turn 50 and get too old, maybe I should get rid of a kidney. That was such a good thing. Maybe I should do that. Right? And she said, whatever, dear. So two days later, she was on Facebook, and she found a posting from a friend of ours whose brother whom we didn't know needed a kidney and she's forwarded it to me. So it looks like you have your chance to get rid of that kidney. So I go and I got tested. And I was imagined I had never met Greg, but I know his sister. Casson was a teacher for our kids and a coach. So we were a match. And then they say, Oh, well, again, someone else is going to do it. So we don't need your kidney. I'm a great you know, I can't even do this. I'm on a Friday afternoon with Bo in the car. I said, CBOE I tried to do the right thing, but nobody wants it. You know, the heck with it. And this lovely woman. She's Irish Marian, here's her name. She's the donor advisor. I think they kind of typecast me. They said, Oh, we'll put the Irish donor advisor with him. Because he'll fall for me. They're completely right. She is she could sell anything to me. Now, Brian, hey, it's Marian here. It says, You know, I told you that that we had another donor for Greg with that donor fell through, you know, so you'll be coming in protesting on Monday will? And I just was telling my son that I'm out. Just No, no, no, no, not not that bright. No, you still want to do a ga? And I said, Yes, of course I want to do it. So I went in got tested. And we were going boy for a vacation. And I said, am I allowed to go wasted? Yeah. But soon as you come back, we'll get you suited. So it was actually the day before my daughter's birthday that they scheduled the surgery. And I met Greg for the first time before going into the surgery that morning. And what was that experience, like donating the kidney fear excitement. This is I don't know this. This is a common feeling about the experience. But my biggest fear was failing. I didn't talk about it other people beforehand. I didn't want anyone to know about it. Because I didn't want to fail. Because a lot of things can go wrong up until the point you actually go through the surgery, you can have a health issue, the recipient can have a health issue. So I was so anxious, not about the surgery, or anything. I was anxious about failing and not being able to do something important and to help out, Greg. So that was the anxiety I felt going in. And then you walk in and you go through the surgery, and then five or six hours later you wake up and my first question to me was house, Greg, because that's you're just worried about them because you're fine, right? Your health is fine. Greg's really sick and needed this desperately. And she said, It's fine. It's working. It was very successful. And that, that moment, that feeling was just the emotion was just incredible. We've been fortunate to have two kids. And that pretty powerful experience, to say the least. But this was something slightly different. And it was overwhelming. I said to Beau and Amy. The next day I said, I really think I'm changed by this I really think I'm gonna become you know, a person of light. And they're like, Oh my god, the morphine is too much. They're just like this is this is this is way too much. And because I experienced I have become slightly less negative and and less angry at the world and just a little more appreciative of every day and of other people. And it has made me maybe not quite a person of light, but I have become less dark. Let's put it that way from that experience. You've gone on to have a nice relationship with theirs. Oh, Greg. Yeah, he's he's a terrific guy. And since then, he's gotten married, he's got a new career. And he's like, blossoming because it's since he was about 12 or 13. It was always about him being kept back by this kidney disease. So this was a big deal. Just really and it's he's got the best wife in the world. They're terrific. And he and I text and have become friends because of that experience. As you say, made you was a man of light. Man of light. Here it is, it happened. It took a long time. And a man of light, of course, would would do it again. So you can't donate a second kidney, and live to tell about it. So what happened next? Greg and I were texting one night and again, see this is it the trend, I think I'd been out and had that second or third glass of wine. And I was thanking him when you know, you get a little bit, you know, sentimental and gushy about these things. And I was thanking him again for the honor to be able to help him because it's meant so much to me in my life. And he said, Well, if it really was such a great experience for you, I hear you can give away your liver. Haha. And I read that and I think you can. So then of course, I looked it up, and I found out you can living liver donations is a thing. And then I did the research. It's, you know, four or five times more dangerous, and it's not as common and more serious process. But of course, being hyper competitive and like, Oh, it's harder. I got to do that. So then I brought it up with Amy. And her first reaction was, Why? Why would you want to as well, because I think doing the kidney was great. And a really good experience and doing the liver and the kidney would be would be extraordinary. And how often in life do you get to do something extraordinary. And in Canada, I finally found something I'm good at, you know, suffering and pain is is you know, that's what we do. And maybe it is just being Irish. It's just the millennia of oppression and suffering that we just don't let it go and the martyrdom but it was not that bad for me. I was able to recover quickly. And from the kidney surgery, I was back bone. I played in a tennis tournament six or seven weeks after that. I was terrible. But I said it. You know, that was a pretty quick rebound. I said, I think I can do it. So she said, Well, why don't you look into and so I contacted Mary married again. And I said, Marian, here's a question. I don't know if anyone ever asked you this, can you do both? And she said, I'm going to have to look into that I've never actually had anyone ask that question. But let me ask, he came back. And she said, Yes, we hear other people have done it. This is what she said. So I said great. And he said, but the testing is very rigorous. And it's a big deal. And you should seriously do your research before we do it. So I went and did the research. And then I went and the testing is pretty extensive. This is very different than the kidney. It's a two day battery of tests, including MRIs, and CAT scans, and, and everything and stress tests and all these different things to make sure you can do it. And I went through all of that, and then found out that I was a decent donor thing was August of last year that I found out Alright, you can do it. We just have to find someone and they told me based on the shape of my liver, it would make more sense for me to give to a child than an adult. And they said we actually don't have that many children. Because a lot of times it's parents or relatives who want to give to a kid you know, the old guy who needs a liver, not many people run to the help them out. But children is often easier to get people to do living organ donations. And I said, Oh, okay, well, maybe it won't happen then. So I could go and I'm at work. And it was a very difficult time and work last year because of the pandemic. A lot of companies are struggling because you had trouble getting people to come to work. And we were making, as I said, COVID test kits, so we had to produce them. So it was really a difficult time. So I was on a Saturday, I was at work at one of the factories, and I got a phone call that I didn't recognize it isn't Hello, Brian. Is it? Yeah, wait, hold on. I'm on the factory floor. Let me step outside. Listen, this is Dr. Sam's Dean, we have a match for you. And we have a child who needs your liver. It's a four year old boy. And I'm thinking they made that up because no one's gonna turn down the four year old boy, I'm like, it's not a four year old boy. It's some old guy that needs an I don't believe it. I said, Okay, yeah, I'm in. I'm in. I'm in this is what I said I wanted to do this is fine. I mean, things are really busy at work. And this is late October. So you want to like, you know, December, get my affairs in order, as they say. And he said, No, we don't have time. 10 days, we're doing it November 3. I said Election Day? And he said yes. So vote early. And we'll see you on November 3. So I had to run around, do all the stuff at work. And I had to fly to New York, I was at one of our factories in the Midwest, and I'd fly to New York and do more testing than to fly to California for more customer stuff. And then back to New York, and I'm walking into the surgery and because of COVID they got very quick at getting you through the hospitals, there's not a lot of waiting around. And I'll get there at 730. And it had to have been maybe 815. I'm in the operating room and about 10 people in the room and I'm about to get up on their turn you walk in because you're perfectly fine. And I had his moment of absolute panic. Like what am I doing it Who does this and it was it was just a moment of this is the stupidest thing you've ever you're choosing to have them cut you open do like all these incisions. And you didn't have to do this. What I just described was much longer than the moment was, but it was a panic. And what it said to me is that courage is not the absence of fear. It's just moving ahead even when there is fear. Now I said okay, it's time for you to show just an ounce of courage. And it proves that I'm not delusional. I'm not crazy, because I realized the wrist and I realized what I was doing and I realized that it was worth it. And in fact you have to go through a psych evaluation in order to get approved for this and the psychiatrist. said, honestly, I was expecting to bounce you out of the process because I said, this person's obviously crazy before I met you, and she met me. And I explained to her that it's really rooted in the liberal social Catholic teaching, or the Jesuits who had been haunting me since college, that you live for others. That's the point. And this was a manifestation of it. And that's why I was there. There was no other mode of there's nothing else, I'm lucky enough to have a very supportive family and very supportive business partners and colleagues who were like, okay, you need to take some time off to do this. That's fine. So I woke up in the ICU. And I was kind of hoping that the election would be over at that point. So basically, I sat there for four days watching CNN and MSNBC while I was recovering, and I was home by the Saturday when finally the election was called. So I made it home within four or five days. And have you been in touch with this four year old recipients. So when it's completely anonymous, like that, both parties have to agree to be come, not anonymous. And I said, I'm fine if they knew who I am, if they're fine, vice versa. And they wanted to thank me and to show gratitude. And if they hadn't, that have been fine, too. And we actually made up, we imagined what we called him, Timmy, because we might never meet him. And so we just imagine what he was like and what the little boy was like, and we're like, we're hope Jimmy is gonna appreciate this liver. So they put you together, they connect you and they send like written letters, this incredible family and the little boy, Richie, he was at a central casting for this sweetest little boy who had a very rare liver disease that was fatal if they hadn't done it and relatives have tried to get tested and they couldn't get anyone knows a match. And they told me the story afterwards that all of a sudden they came to them and said, Okay, so there's this 51 year old man who wants to anonymously donate. What a 51 year old like, Is it still work delivers work on people that old I was like, I'm not that I mean, really, and there, I guess. So I then had a chance to meet them in person. About two months later, when I left the hospital a few days later, I was just so grateful. It's interesting, because the man of light thing didn't necessarily come back. Because they didn't use morphine, they use some other, they didn't use a narcotic for whatever reason, they changed the protocols to maybe I didn't have quite as much delusion or whatever. But afterwards, I felt just fortunate, and your livers going to fully regenerate? Yeah, it almost it within the first three months, most of it, that's taken out rows back, and I had a test recently, and most of it has grown back. And they what they say is that sometimes it just stops based on what your needs are. So let's say they took out, you know, 30%, but I'm only 25% my comeback because that's all the body needs. It's amazing based on understand how the body knows to not continue growing or how to stop, but it seems to have worked. So I feel fine. But you like Margaret doesn't whine. So I do it needs to grow back to capacity. I like to think of it's a battle tested. And that didn't matter is in terms of donating. No, no, in order to donate your liver you have to go through as I said, they're pretty serious physical battery of tests. They call my health and it's when my kids call me completely unremarkable, which is to say like I wear medium, everything I'm the most average medium person into my health is in great, but it's not horrible. I'm not in great shape. But I'm not in bad shape. I'm just medium, which in this case is a blessing and a gift. And one of the things that also haunts me is that we asked our mothers to speak at our wedding. And my mother chose to say to those who much is given much as expected, at our wedding in front of hundreds of people, whatever, and use that as the kind of the basis of her talk or whatever. And that is in my case, I'd you know, I don't have a lot of money. As you know from community theater, I don't have a lot of talent, I have a lot of enthusiasm. And I happen to have very boring, unremarkable health. And that's something that I could finally, when I learned afterwards, that as far as people know, there are only about 50 people who have ever done both. And usually what happens is somebody who's given a kidney, a relative needs a liver. So they then say, Okay, I'm going to step up and do this. Far as they know, they don't know of anybody who anonymously said, Okay, now I'm going to do a liver as well, that was reticent in the beginning to speak of it because my reasons for doing it were my own. And I didn't post about it or talk about it or anything. It was only when New York Presbyterian asked if I would consider just talking more about it because they're trying to encourage more people to consider being living donors. As I said, I did volunteer work, but it really has been this wonderful way of just giving your life some significance and giving yourself a sense of Alright, I've done something for somebody else. twice. Twice. Yes, there's one more that I'm looking into, but I think I might be doing it alone, which is you can donate a lobe of your lung. I have no support from family members to do the living lung donation. So I don't think that's going to happen but I have looked into it. And I think I'm going to get shut down. But it really is, as Amy said, perhaps it's turning into a bit of an addiction. Or maybe I should just let it go a little, the rest of your organs are shaking. And I have signed up for bone marrow, which by the way that again, they don't rarely do they choose someone in their 50s for bone marrow, so that's probably not going to happen. But I am on the list and sent in my swab and everything. So we'll say, so organs and tissues aside, what's next, in general? So someone said to me, would you run for office again, I said, No, I said, I scratch that itch, I actually learned that I wasn't great at it, I've got other ways that I can make a difference and be involved. So the organ donations, I've scratched that itch. Now I'm just looking for the next itch to scratch and what I can do to make a difference, and I haven't found it yet, but it has led me to be less haunted by the need to do the next thing. And it's kind of nice to not worry about that I happen to love my work and be very lucky to have it and very impassioned and engaged in building a business and working with people and creating jobs and flying around the country trying to solve problems and to build, you know, medical devices. So I like that. And I actually enjoy my kids we actually learned during the pandemic. And during a lot of the isolation we're doing. We actually like our kids and it's led to us become much, much closer and even me doing the donation, they they're much more proud of what I've done since running for congress than I when I when I was running for Congress, I probably need to work on my humility. But in order to be a really good politician, you have to be solicitous. And I'm not very good at that. It's a big part of it. And some people it comes naturally, their charisma manifests itself that way, and they're very good at bringing people in and making them a part of it, whatever. I found, I wasn't very good at that I'm much more of the angry activist who's like, you know, wants to charge the hill and solve the problem that way, rather than be someone that's going to, you know, collaborate and work together and do that. So I said, so rather than try to morph myself into being a really sweet, nice person, I decided I'm just going to play to my strengths and and see what that brings to Who knows? Well, you had me fooled all along. You know, child size liver for some reason, but so your porch is getting cold. We'll wrap this interview up, I just want to come around full circle here. We started with what brought you to the Catskills into this home. What keeps you here? Oh, definitely the sense of belonging and a sense of community. For example, Amy is the chairperson of the local economic development Foundation, the hunter foundation. She and the people there do great work in building a strong community here by kids just love the school. We love playing sports. And we're just talking with somebody who works in the school about this great game we had last winter where the boys varsity had this big win upset win out in edmundston. And, and that type of connection to community. And being able to go into a restaurant here in town and not only know the owners, but know most of the people sitting we're lucky to have that. I encourage you to now the way people's careers are you can work more remotely and do all that. I'm pretty excited that we have this place to continue the next journey and have a place that our kids can continue to come back and visit. I do hope they leave soon for a while and they're welcome to come back but they should leave. will appreciate it here a lot more when they come back. Exactly, exactly. Thank you very much, Brian. It's great to see you again. Cue bread Kats cast is a production of silver hollow audio. This episode was edited by our production intern sky rousse. Please be sure to subscribe wherever podcasts are found and give us a rating to help other listeners find us. Until next time. You can find us on Instagram at cats cast. I'm Brett Barry. Thanks for listening
Transcribed by https://otter.ai