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Jun 19, 2015 2:35 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Joseph Taylor, East Quogue Heart Transplant Recipient, Loses Battle

Jun 23, 2015 4:44 PM

He planned on sharing his story to help others. He was determined to attend the fundraiser being held next month in his honor. He’d hoped to make it home for his son’s first birthday.But Joseph B. Taylor Jr., the East Quogue man whose battle for life raised awareness about the growing need for organ donors, and galvanized the support of a community, died last Thursday afternoon, June 18, in a New Jersey hospital. He was 29.

Two and a half months after receiving a heart transplant, Mr. Taylor succumbed to complications from a follow-up surgery that took place last Wednesday, June 17, at the Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.

Mr. Taylor—whose quest for recovery inspired the “Hearts for Joe” movement, drawing support locally, from across the country and around the world—spent the past 11 weeks confined to a hospital bed, unable to walk and on dialysis after suffering internal bleeding and multiple infections during his heart transplant surgery on April 1.

“Every single person he worked with at the hospital said he never ever lost his will,” his wife, Nicole Taylor, said. “He went down with a fight.”

Despite his physical struggles, Mr. Taylor remained focused on the goals of getting well enough to return home, be with his family and raise awareness for others who might share his condition, Ms. Taylor said Friday afternoon.

The couple have a son, also named Joseph Taylor, or J.T. for short. He’d hoped to make it home for J.T.’s first birthday, which falls just one day after his own—but Mr. Taylor died the day his son turned 1.

“A part of me was angry about that,” Ms. Taylor said as she held back tears. “But I think our son was brought into our lives when he was for that reason. Even though I’m heartbroken and I miss my best friend, he’s still here and I can see him in my son every day. I know that’s why things happened the way they did.

“Everything comes back full circle,” she continued. “Joe always wanted a son, and he wanted him to be named after him—he got to have that.”

In the weeks before his death, Mr. Taylor expressed his desire to use his experiences to help others, by increasing organ donation registration and spreading information about heart health. Ms. Taylor, a business teacher at the Westhampton Beach High School, said she now intends to carry that torch on her husband’s behalf.

“He wanted people to realize that things like this can happen to anyone and, unfortunately, we were just a little too late at detecting the problem,” Ms. Taylor said. “I don’t know if that would have changed anything, but we need other people to know what they can do to protect themselves.”

In 2013, Mr. Taylor was diagnosed with an enlarged heart and had a mechanical pump, known as a left ventricular assistance device, or LVAD, implanted to keep blood circulating through his body.

After the transplant surgery, Mr. Taylor nearly lost his arm due to infection. To treat this, he had to have surgery daily to remove dead tissue from his arm. Last Wednesday, surgeons hoped to implant a skin graft to close the still-open wound.

Family friend Kathy Masterson, the athletic director for the Westhampton Beach School District, said further complications arose during Mr. Taylor’s surgery and that “he took a turn for the worst.”

“His body just couldn’t take it anymore,” Ms. Masterson said. “We’re all devastated.”

Though her feeling of loss is immense, Ms. Taylor said she knows if her husband had made it through the surgery, his journey to recovery would have been far from over. Because he hadn’t been able to walk since the original surgery, Mr. Taylor suffered severe muscle atrophy. He also remained dependent on a dialysis machine.

“His wish was to never be kept alive by machines. He wouldn’t have wanted to live a life where people would have had to take care of him and that’s probably where it would have gone,” she said. “It would have been a very, very long, difficult road, but he never lost his strength and he fought as hard as he could, and I know he did that for the people he loved.”

Mr. Taylor attended Westhampton Beach schools until his senior year, when he transferred to Sachem, where his father had accepted a job coaching football and lacrosse. Mr. Taylor’s father, Joseph Taylor Sr., died in March 2005, when Joseph Jr. was just 18.

Her husband played lacrosse at Suffolk County Community College, Ms. Taylor said, before eventually going on to study economics at Pace University in Manhattan.

Mr. Taylor enjoyed visiting the beach, traveling and was an avid golfer. He also volunteered his time to be a mentor for Helios, Westhampton Beach High School’s virtual business that is operated through the Virtual Enterprise class. Prior to falling ill, Mr. Taylor was employed as an assistant vice president with Morgan Stanley in New York City.

The Hearts for Joe Facebook page has continued to draw messages from family and friends, with people sharing condolences, photos and stories of how Mr. Taylor influenced their lives.

Ms. Masterson, who is organizing an upcoming fundraiser at the Boardy Barn in Hampton Bays to help cover the Taylors’ medical expenses, said the event will still be held on Friday, July 31. More details on the fundraiser were not immediately available.

In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Taylor is survived by his mother, Sharon Taylor of Westhampton, two siblings, Patrick and Kelsey Taylor, both of Westhampton, his mother- and father-in-law, Tina and Fred Winter of Quogue, and a sister-in-law, Alexandra Winter, also of Quogue.

Visitation for Mr. Taylor was held Monday at the Follett and Werner Funeral Home on Mill Road in Westhampton Beach. A funeral mass was held Tuesday morning at the Church of the Immaculate Conception on Quiogue and followed by a private cremation.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Donate Life and the American Heart Association. Donations also can be made to the family through the “Hearts for Joe” page on gofundme.com.

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