HARTFORD, CT — The swearing in ceremony for state representatives and senators at the capitol on the opening day of the General Assembly session tends to be a pretty routine, sometimes dry event.
But Wednesday’s swearing in of Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, took on special meaning as not only was he sworn in two weeks after undergoing a successful kidney transplant — he was sworn in by his donor.
Looney’s long-time friend, Superior Court Judge Brian Fischer, swore in Looney as the packed Senate chambers stood and applauded.
“I am happy and grateful to be here today. Actually I am happy and grateful to be anywhere,” he joked.
Looney thanked his “loving, patient, smart and beautiful wife, Ellen. Words cannot do justice to the depths of my love for you and just how lucky I feel to be able to share a life with you.”
He also thanked his donor.
“To the Honorable Judge Brian Fischer and his wonderful wife, Katie, your kindness, generosity and courage are truly awe-inspiring and will allow me to spend more Christmases and New Years with Ellen, Michael, Becky, Matthew, and Anna Katherine. Thank you, Judge Fischer for this amazing gift. Thank you for being here today,” Looney said.
Fischer said he was “more than happy” to be a donor to his good friend from New Haven.
“I submitted my name to see if I was a match,” Fischer said. “When I found out I was a match, with the support of my wife I agreed to go forward.”
Fischer added: “I am so glad I could help Marty out. He’s a great guy.”
When asked how he, Fischer, was feeling two weeks after the surgery, the judge quickly responded: “I feel great.”
Looney’s search for a kidney donor began in August. About 30 people stepped forward and called the Yale-New Haven Transplantation Center at 866-925-3897.
Looney was told finding a living donor was his best bet at avoiding daily dialysis.
“I was one of the lucky few who was able to find a compatible donor,” Looney told his fellow lawmakers, who also took advantage of his time in front of the Senate to make another pitch to push for organ donors to come forward.
“Currently, there are roughly 120,000 people on the kidney transplant list,” Looney said. “The wait for a deceased donor could be five years, and in some states, it is closer to 10 years.
Looney introduced legislation this year that would give state employees more paid leave if they decided to be living organ or bone marrow donors.
“I’m one of roughly 16,000 people last year who received a kidney transplant. “I’m one of the lucky few — about 5,000 or so in any given year — who were able to find a compatible volunteer living donor.”
Looney has lived with Ankylosing Spondylitis since he was a teenager. It is a form of arthritis that affects the neck and spine. A long-term side effect of taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories to treat this condition is kidney problems.
Returning to the state capitol two weeks after surgery was quite a feat for the 68-year-old Looney.
While the recovery in the hospital could take anywhere from 5 to 10 days, medical experts say kidney transplant recipients should not venture out into large crowds for at least eight weeks following surgery.
Legislator after legislator, including Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, warmly welcomed Looney, many making short speeches saying how happy they to have Looney back in their company.
Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, said he was “proud and honored” to be able to call Looney a friend.
“He is a remarkable and kind man,” Duff said.
Republican Senate Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, who also is a long-time friend of Looney’s, said it was “remarkable that he is here (at the state capitol) today.”
But Fasano added that Looney was also on the phone with him discussing the 2017 General Assembly session “24 hours after his surgery.” It was in that phone call the day after Looney’s surgery, Fasano said, that the two agreed to a power-sharing agreement in the Senate, which is divided evenly.
Fasano also knows Fischer well and made reference to the fact that the judge is well known for his athleticism.
“With that new kidney you’ll be doing jump shots,” Fasano kidded Looney.