May 19, 2014


University Hospital 
Contact:   Tiffany L. Smith
Office:     (973) 972-1025
Mobile:   (973) 634-8298
American Liver Foundation
Contact: Lisa Gallipoli
Office:   (212) 943-1059 ext. 212
Mobile:  (973) 220-4958
NJ Sharing Network
Contact: Lernard Freeman
Office: (908) 516-5690
Mobile: (551) 689-3150


“Bucket List Accomplished”
Celebrating Another Chance at Life 
Re-Birthday Party Highlights the

Miracle of Liver Transplantation


(NEWARK, NJ) – Nearly 100 men and women came together on May 17 to share their personal testimonies of receiving another chance at life thanks to the gift of liver transplantation. They convened as part of a “Re-Birthday Party” sponsored by the American Liver Foundation, Greater New York Division, University Hospital, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and NJ Sharing Network. The event was held at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.


In addition to honoring transplant recipients, living donors, and donor families, the party celebrated the 25th anniversary of New Jerseys first liver transplant which was performed at University Hospital in Newark in 1989.


“Bucket list accomplished,” said Bob Plews. The 65-year-old Audubon, New Jersey resident had a liver transplant at University Hospital in 2002. Plews was among the long line of liver transplant recipients who spoke at the party and emotionally shared how the transplant had prolonged their lives, allowing them to witness various family milestones. For Plews, his “bucket list” (a term used to describe what a person hopes to accomplish before dying) included seeing his four children marry and witnessing the births of his grandchildren.


Liver transplant recipient Bob Plews with his daughter, Jennifer 
DePoder, at the re-birthday party.


Barbara McCann of Orange, New Jersey stressed how having a liver transplant 
in 2003 allowed her to subsequently care for her husband and mother before their deaths.  
She also witnessed the birth of twin grandsons last year.  All, she said, 
brought her tremendous happiness.

More than 200 people attended the re-birthday party. They included nearly 100 liver transplant 
recipients and their families.


In sharing her testimony, Celestine Hawkins-Nelson of Jersey City, New Jersey was joined by her 13-year-old son Kendual. She recalled her uncertainty during the time leading up to her liver transplant. The hospital’s liver team, she said, helped her through a very trying time and had become like family by the time of her transplant in 2010.

Celestine Hawkins-Nelson, 46, of Jersey City had a liver transplant at University 
Hospital in 2010.  Her 13-year-old son, Kendual, expressed his thankfulness that 
she is alive during the re-birthday party.

At age 23, Lourdes Taveras of Bogota, New Jersey was the youngest 
transplant recipient attending the celebration.  She was accompanied by 
Dr. Nikolaos T. Pyrsopoulos, Medical Director, Liver Transplantation, 
University Hospital, while sharing her story.


Joseph Rufalo of Kenilworth, New Jersey, 
received a liver transplant at University Hospital last October. 
A pianist who has performed with Bob Dylan 
and Muddy Waters, he shared his musical gifts at the party.


“We all share an intimacy that most people never know,” expressed liver transplant recipient David Heiblum while holding his grandson.


Speakers at the re-birthday party also included members of the hospital’s liver transplant team including: 


Baburao Koneru, M.D.

Program Director, Liver Transplantation, University Hospital

Professor and Chief, Liver Transplant and Hepatobiliary Surgery, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School




Nikolaos T. Pyrsopoulos, MD, PhD, MBA, FACP, AGAF

Medical Director, Liver Transplantation, University Hospital

Associate Professor and Director of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School


Baburao Koneru, M.D.

Program Director, Liver Transplantation, University Hospital, and

Professor and Chief, Liver Transplant and Hepatobiliary Surgery, 
Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, addresses guests at the re-birthday party. Dr. Koneruhas been with the University Hospital Center for Liver Diseases since its inception in 1989.


The doctors highlighted the latest developments in liver transplantation and applauded the team of physicians, nurses and administrative staff members who have worked tirelessly to provide 1,321 liver transplants since the University Hospital Center for Liver Diseases opened 25 years ago. It is the only liver transplant center in northern New Jersey.


More than 120,000 people are on the national transplant waiting list. Each day, 18 people die waiting for a life-saving organ transplant, and nearly 5,000 are waiting in New Jersey alone. Approximately 6,000 liver transplants are performed in the United States each year.


To view more pictures from the re-birthday party, visit:


American Liver Foundation The American Liver Foundation is the nation’s largest non-profit organization focused solely on promoting liver health and disease prevention.  The American Liver Foundation achieves its mission in the fight against liver disease by funding scientific research, education for medical professionals, advocacy, information and support programs for patients and their families as well as public awareness campaigns about liver wellness and disease prevention.  The mission of the American Liver Foundation is to facilitate, advocate and promote education, support and research for the prevention, treatment and cure of liver disease.  Additional information can be found at or by calling 1 800 GO LIVER (800-465-4837).

University Hospital is one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers. Located at University Heights in Newark, New Jersey, University Hospital is a principal teaching hospital of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences and a regional resource for advanced services across many medical specialties.  For more information about University Hospital, please visit


NJ Sharing Network is a non-profit, federally designated organization responsible for the recovery and placement of donated organs and tissue for New Jersey residents in need of life-saving transplants. NJ Sharing Network partners with Donate Life America, a not-for-profit national alliance that drives communities to increase their numbers of registered donors. NJ Sharing Network honors those who gave, pays tribute to those who received, offers hope to those who continue to wait, and remembers the lives lost while waiting...for the gift of life.


Rutgers New Jersey Medical School Rutgers New Jersey Medical School is the oldest school of medicine in the state.  Today it is part of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey and graduates approximately 170 physicians a year. In addition to providing the MD degree, the school offers MD/PhD, MD/MPH and MD/MBA degrees through collaborations with other institutions of higher education. Dedicated to excellence in education, research, clinical care and community outreach, the medical school comprises 22 academic departments and works with several healthcare partners, including its principal teaching hospital, The University Hospital. Its faculty consists of numerous world-renowned scientists and many of the region’s “top doctors.” Home to the nation’s oldest student-run clinic, New Jersey Medical School hosts more than 50 centers and institutes, including the Public Health Research Institute Center, the Global Tuberculosis Institute and the Neurological Institute of New Jersey. For more information please visit: