Father-Daughter: Waiting for the Call

Mark Perry takes care of the buildings across the academic campus. His daughter, Marlena Gainey cares for patients at the Coleman Center for Women at IU Health’s University Hospital. Their jobs rely on answering calls to help others. But there was one call that was answered to help them – it was a call for a transplant.

On any given day, Mark Perry can answer numerous calls for maintenance at buildings throughout the IUPUI campus. One minute he can be on the roof repairing a leak; the next he can be in the basement working on a stranded elevator.

His daughter, Marlena Gainey’s job is to make sure her patients at the Coleman Center for Women are receiving topnotch care. It’s not unusual for her to triage calls and answer patient questions.

“We’re both putting out fires,” said Gainey, who has been a nurse at IU Health for seven years and serves as the nurse manager for the Coleman Center. She was introduced to the academic campus when she began her undergraduate degree at IUPUI and rode to work with her dad. She later went on to get her masters also at IUPUI.

“We’d meet for lunch at Cavanaugh Hall,” said Perry, who has worked maintaining the campus for 16 years.  He’s done a little bit of everything from working on air compressors and pumps to repairs in the Neuroscience Building, the Research Technology Center and everywhere in between.

“The campus has really grown a lot over the years. We never know where we’re going from one day to the next,” said Perry, who turns 63 next month.

But there’s one building that he hadn’t been into – Methodist Hospital.

That changed two years ago. Like his daughter, Perry is an avid bike rider. One day after a leisurely ride, he began to feel extra tired and was out of breath. He was also losing weight. A medical check-up revealed Perry had Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IBF). The lung disease results in scarring (fibrosis) of the lungs. Over time, the scarring made it more difficult for Perry to breath. Eventually he was on oxygen around the clock and was chosen as a viable candidate for a lung transplant.

“I’m a daddy’s girl. Everyone says we look alike and have the same mannerisms. They say our compassion for others is the same. We want to help people. “It was hard to see him as a patient,” said Gainey. She and her husband bought her childhood home and her parents built a home next door so they could be close to their three grandchildren – ages 13, 10 and 8.

With Gainey at his side, Perry began the transplant process in February 2016 with screenings, and workups. At 3:30 a.m. six months later Perry got the phone call that they all had been waiting for.

“I didn’t sleep at all that night. I just felt like something was going to happen – that we were going get the call. It was almost like when you get the call that a mother’s water breaks and a new baby is on the way,” said Gainey.

In fact, this was her dad’s chance at new life.

On August 11, 2016 Perry underwent surgery for a bilateral lung transplant. He was in the hospital for nine days and during that time, his daughter made frequent trips from University Hospital to Methodist.

“I was mostly the medical translator and making sure I knew what was going on.  I’ve been a nurse for a while but this was a part of the body I didn’t know,” said Gainey. Perry’s wife Linda was his main caretaker, and Gainey was his advocate.

“It really opened my eyes. If patients don’t have a family member in the health field there is so much they don’t know and understand,” said Gainey. “We’d leave and they’d ask more questions. It made me realize that we need to explain to patients in a way they understand and we need to explain it over and over. Patient education is important.

“I’ve always wanted to treat every patient like I would my family member and having a family member as a patient you hope the other staff feels the same. I wanted to be an advocate as a nurse and a daughter to make sure he got the best care, and he did,” said Gainey.

Since his transplant surgery, Perry says he feels fantastic. He returns to Methodist Hospital every three months for lab work and a general check up but otherwise he said he’s never felt better.

“I’m grateful to be alive. It’s awesome be able to spend time watching my grandkids grow up,” said Perry.

And his goals?

His wife recently bought him a new bike and with Gainey’s help he’s working his way up to a 160-mile cross-state bike ride.

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email at
 T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.