Sunday, March 22, 1998
The large and small legacies
of Beth Dean

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Meaghan Dean, 3, has exceptional blue eyes. She has a brother, Patrick, just 2 months old, and a father who can sing - along with her - all the words to The Lion King. What she doesn't have is a mother.

This was such a shocking and unlikely thing to happen to this little family. Beth, 31, was proud she never missed work at the beginning of her pregnancy. Then, it seemed almost as though the morning sickness caught up to her.

''At first, we thought it might be the flu, really bad flu,'' says David Dean, who went with his wife to the obstetrician. Patrick was not due to be born for six more weeks. After examining Beth and listening to her symptoms - nausea, unusual bruising - the doctor told the startled couple that he wanted to admit Beth to the hospital. Right now.

''The doctors said later that we were within two hours of losing both of them,'' David says.

The Deans didn't know. Didn't have a clue.

''Sweetie,'' David told his wife, ''I'm going to call your dad.''

If he had known, he says, that these would be his last words to her, he'd have said something more important.

Rare disease

Beth Dean never regained consciousness after the birth of her son. Acute fatty liver of pregnancy (AFLP), David was told. He'd never heard of it. The cure is to deliver the baby. Then, most of the time, the liver will start working again.

Beth's never did.

Doctors recommended a transplant, and she was moved from a hospital in Dayton to University Hospital here. David's mother stayed close to Patrick, who was in intensive care. Beth's mother helps with the baby now.

Mothers are wonderful, aren't they?

So are fathers. Meaghan and Patrick's father manages a drive-through in Dayton - ''Say it's a pony keg. People in Cincinnati will know what that is'' - and free-lances as a graphic artist for a design studio here.

Money is tight.

People who know David are doing what good people do. They are trying to help. There's a fund-raiser today at 5 p.m. - a concert and silent auction at Salamone's, 5800 Colerain Ave. in Mount Airy. Food, music, a silent auction. If you can't make it and would still like to help, donations go to ''Friends of David and Beth Dean,'' Fifth Third Banks of Northern Kentucky, P.O. Box 427, Florence 41022.

It is my impression that David would do anything for his kids, including laying bare his life. He sits across from me at a table covered with photographs. Beth and Meaghan surrounded by pumpkins at Halloween. Beth in a ball cap. Patrick, now robust, looking into the camera.

There's a wonderful picture of Meaghan, draped in her mother's nightgown. ''She calls them her 'softs,' and I guess they help her sleep,'' her father says. She asks about her mother, and David answers as best he can.

He prayed a lot, asking for guidance. And for miracles. ''But I promised God I'd never ask why.'' It's a promise he has kept. ''For the most part.''

But those 2 a.m. feedings, in the quiet, in the dark, give a person a lot of time to think. ''I believe God sent Beth to me to shape me up. And I think it kind of worked. I am a better person, thanks to Beth.''

This is one of those stories in which I defy you to find a silver lining. This just stinks. Except that Meaghan and Patrick are healthy and will delight their father in ways he doesn't dream of yet.

And strangers will meet today and give money to two kids they've never met. Being better people, you might say.

Thanks to Beth.

Laura Pulfer's column appears in the Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM), and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. E-mail her at