Bard family awaits transplant news
SOUTHINGTON — Torrington native Nicole Thomas Bard was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis, a degenerative liver disease that has left the young mother in need of a liver transplant.
She and her husband, Peter Bard, have started a gofundme campaign to help them pay her mounting medical bills and other expenses, and plan to use any excess to help others facing PSC.
Nicole Bard, 31, was born and raised in Torrington and is a graduate of Torrington High School. She and Peter Bard, a Southington native, married in 2016 and are the parents of twins Elliot and Grace, now 2. But life has become more difficult as her disease has progressed.
“Nicole was diagnosed with auto-immune disease when she was 15, and about four years ago she was diagnosed with PSC,” Peter Bard said. “She itches constantly and she deals with scabs, open wounds, kind of like chicken pox. She’s also nauseous all the time, and gets very lethargic. She has a tough time finding her energy, but somehow she does it. It’s getting harder for her.”
According to the American Liver Foundation, PSC is a chronic disease that slowly damages the bile ducts. The flow of bile, a digestive liquid made in the liver, is blocked by inflammation and scarring/fibrosis. Bile then collects in the liver, where it gradually damages it, eventually making the liver unable to function. Patients may have the disease for years before symptoms develop, but once they do, a patient can develop complications, be diagnosed with cancer, and ultimately need a liver transplant.
For Nicole Barr, her PSC began to progress after her twins were born. In the last month, she was told that the disease has progressed to stage 4, meaning her liver will soon stop functioning. She’s on the list at Yale New Haven Hospital for a liver transplant, and the couple also is looking for a living donor, since the list is long.
The families surrounding the Bards — their parents, Nadine and Ray Thomas of Torrington and Jim and Debbie Bard of Southington, as well as siblings and many friends — are all helping the young couple cope with Nicole Bard’s illness.
“We have had help from both sides of the family, through all of this,” Peter Bard said. “The moms both watch the kids, friends help out. ... We’re very grateful to have as much help as possible.
“Meanwhile, we’re searching for a living donor to donate half their liver to Nicole,” Peter Bard said. “We’ve been working with a transplant team at Yale New Haven, which is the top in the country. We really trust them, and we love everything they’ve done for us.”
While they wait for a liver and seek a donor, the gofundme page is gaining ground. Their goal is $30,000 and by Monday they had raised $13,275. But the money won’t mean much if they don’t find a liver.
“We’ve been on the transplant list for three months, and you can get a deceased donor, or find a living one,” Peter Bard said. “Technically by the points system allowed for a transplant , she’s not high on the list, because she’s not sick enough. But we’re very optimistic. We try to stay positive.”
Last week, Nicole developed an infection, and “the team stepped it up a little,” her husband said. “It’s definitely getting worse. We’re trying to speed up the process. She’s not in critical condition, but with this disease it can happen overnight when you get to this stage. One day you’re fine, and the next day you’re in the hospital.”
Both are very involved in the local theater community, and have performed in shows at the Warner Theatre, Thomaston Opera House and Phoenix Theater Co., so they have many friends helping by supporting the gofundme effort.
Donors can visit to make a donation, and a website details Nicole’s story. “Whatever we raise will be used to pay for her treatment, pay bills, hospital bills ... anything that’s left over, we’re hoping to pay it forward and give it to another person looking for a transplant, or to the transplant center in New Haven,” Peter Bard said. “We’ll use what we need and pass along the rest.”
Nicole Bard works in finance for for COCC, an integrated technology company with offices in Southington and Avon. Peter Bard is employed as a landscaper with Country Gardens in Bristol, doing commercial and residential landscaping.
Because of her declining health, she has been working part time, and the company has given her time off, with the reassurance that her job will be waiting when she returns. “They have been very understanding and supportive,” her husband said.
The couple said they’re very grateful for the support they have received from everyone. “People are always so willing to help,” Peter Bard said.
Nicole Bard said she tries to stay positive every day, and feels very blessed. “I am blessed to have an amazing life, an amazing husband, two beautiful children, a great support system, an amazing job ... everything else is great,” she said. “I’m just battling this health issue. I’m doing everything to beat this, and once I get this liver transplant, I look forward to living the rest of my life.”