On the Death of Fr. Jose Moises “Joey” Fermin, S.J. (1962-2009)

Born: November 25, 1962
Entered the Society of Jesus: May 30, 1986
Ordained Priest: April 18, 1998
Returned to our Lord: January 5, 2009

Fr. Joey Fermin, S.J. quietly passed away on January 5, 2009 at 8:35 p.m. He succumbed to respiratory failure due to pneumonia. The underlying and predisposing medical conditions included: (a) progressively deteriorating liver graft function compounded by an inability to tolerate needed immunosuppressive drugs; (b) an impaired immune system making him highly susceptible to infection; and (c) kidney failure.

In late 2007, Fr Joey was diagnosed to have end-stage liver disease secondary to liver cirrhosis of unknown origin. The best treatment option available at that time was a liver transplant. A brother Jesuit offered to share part of his liver, and all the necessary tests and preparations were done in Manila and in Hong Kong to make both the donor and Fr. Joey ready for the transplant. The technically complicated operation was done successfully at the Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong on July 28, 2008. Fr. Joey had a rough post-operative course, exhibiting signs of an unusual hyperacute rejection of the liver graft almost immediately after the procedure. He was able to overcome this difficult phase through the use of strong immunosuppressive drugs. He experienced side effects from these drugs including a viral infection and mild kidney damage. But with adjustment, he got well enough to be allowed to come back. Feeling well, he arrived in Manila on October 12, 2008.

During the first few weeks after his return, his liver graft function was stable. However, Fr. Joey eventually experienced increasing complications and side effects brought about by the aggressive immunosuppressive treatment. This led his doctors to adjust the dose of these drugs and to try to strike a balance between maintaining liver graft function and avoiding the serious side effects of the medicines.

Fr Joey’s last admission to the hospital was on December 12, 2008. He was confined because of increasing weakness. He had a blood infection which was successfully cleared with antibiotics. During this same admission however, his kidney function deteriorated to a point that he had to undergo dialysis. Then, as one infection cleared, another infection – this time, in his lungs – set in and required more tests and further treatment.

With the continuing deterioration of the liver graft function, his doctors proposed a series of diagnostic tests to determine the best interventions that could potentially remedy and preserve liver graft function. After several prolonged discussions with his Jesuit superiors and his family in the last few days prior to his demise, Fr. Joey firmly expressed his desire to Fr. Provincial that no further interventions be made and that he be allowed to go home. Proper arrangements were then made, and his wish was granted. Barely eight hours after he came home to the Jesuit Residence Infirmary, Fr. Joey returned to our Lord surrounded by members of his family – his sister Anna and his Jesuit brothers.

Requiescat in Pace.

Source: The Philippine Jesuits