by Dawn March, Staff Writer
“Organ Donation touched our lives in so many ways,” Courtney Baum explained. Baum, the Director of the Saint Vincent College Career Center, was directly affected by an organ donation this summer when her husband, Bob Baum, the Director of Residence Life, needed a kidney transplant. On November 15, the Marketing Matrix and the Center for Organ Recovery and Education (CORE) presented an Organ Donation Awareness Dinner; about 70 people attended.
The “kick-off” dinner was part of Marketing Matrix’s organ donation awareness week, called “Give Thanks. Give Life. Become an organ donor.” The Marketing Matrix Club, the Saint Vincent College chapter of the American Marketing Association, decided to participate in an annual campaign called “AMA Saves Lives.”
Colleen Sullivan, the Community Relations Coordinator of CORE, contacted the club.
“We decided this was an excellent endeavor,” explained Deanna Klick, President of Marketing Matrix. “Our very own Director of Residence Life, Bob Baum, had just received [a] kidney from Jarod Trunzo, our Service Learning Coordinator, a few weeks earlier.”
Bob was diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease at the age of 15. Polycystic Kidney Disease, also known as Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease (ADPKD), is a disease where the kidneys fail to work. For the majority of his life, Bob’s ADPKD had little impact on him until four years ago, when doctors found his blood work was not good, and Bob had to go on dialysis. Eventually, Bob needed a kidney transplant to save his life.
“We found a living donor through the work of God, Saint Vincent, our congregation at the Latrobe Presbyterian Church, and, of course, our family and friends,” Courtney said. “Additionally, Bob’s life was saved with tissue and other organ donations from other anonymous donors through UPMC. Without these donors, Bob’s surgery would not have been a complete success.”
Bob’s life was saved when he received a kidney this summer from Saint Vincent College’s Service Learning Coordinator Jarod Trunzo. In a video shown at the dinner, Trunzo explained how important it was for him to donate his kidney, but also how it was not an easy decision to make.
“I have two daughters, Anna and Sophia,” Trunzo said, expressing his worry if one of his family members ever needed a kidney, he would not have one to give. Trunzo said that on the day of the surgery, he felt a strong presence of God, and he knew donating his kidney to Bob was the right thing to do. Trunzo also joked that the surgery was helpful, but also hurtful. Both Trunzo and Bob said they are doing well. Trunzo said he feels even “better than [he] had before.”
Bob and Courtney were also shown in a video to share their experience. They talked about how many family members were tested to donate a kidney to Bob, but no one tested was a match for the surgery. Out of 17 people, Trunzo was the last to get tested, and luckily, he was confirmed as a match.
Klick explained the club believed the initiative of the campaign was to increase organ donations and improve awareness of the need for organ donors.
“Our club contacted Bob and Courtney, and as soon as they gave us permission, we began planning for our Organ Donation Awareness week,” Klick said.
Once on board with the Organ Donation Awareness week, Marketing Matrix began planning their kick-off event: a dinner where students, faculty, and administration would learn about the importance of organ donation and hear personal stories of how organ donation has impacted people’s lives. The club worked with Events and Conference Services, Bob and Courtney Baum and the Residence Life staff to help spread the word of their event.
Everyone involved in Marketing Matrix “felt that this campaign was necessary,” Klick said. Marketing Matrix understood the need for organ donors in the United States and agreed to work on the “AMA Saves Lives” campaign to “do [their] part and make a difference.”
In preparation for its organ donation awareness week, the club contacted Sullivan for donor cards, information packets and bracelets to aid in prompting the club’s initiative.
“The donor cards also made it easy for us to keep record of how many people we had actually registered,” Klick explained.
Those who attended the dinner heard several personal and touching stories. Bob, Courtney and Trunzo’s stories left many students open-mouthed at the shock that something so serious could have happened at Saint Vincent College.
Sullivan gave an informative speech on the importance of organ donation and the need of organ donors. Sullivan also explained the purpose of CORE and its importance to those in need of organ donations. CORE covers New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. There are 58 national CORE centers, and CORE works with 155 hospitals in the region.
“[Sullivan] was really able to put organ donation into perspective, and I think she changed the minds of many people in the room,” Klick said. Sullivan also explained who can become an organ donor, how CORE matches a donor with a recipient, and gave truth to many of the myths surrounding organ donation.
Malinda Cecchini-Sherid, a founder of The Second Chance Walk and an advocate of organ donation, spoke about how organ donation has affected her life. In 2001, Cecchini-Sherid lost her daughter Kimberly in a car accident. An organ donor herself, Cecchini-Sherid gave consent for her daughter’s organs to be donated to others in need. Cecchini-Sherid explained how her daughter’s organs and tissues have helped 128 people. The story left many in tears.
“I believe organ donation is a wonderful thing. When we die, we do not need our organs where we are going. Why wouldn’t I want to give others the chance to fulfill their lives?” Klick said when asked about her opinion of organ donation, “If I have the opportunity to donate an organ like Mr. Trunzo did, I would love to have the chance to save a life.”
“By being an organ donor, you not only touch the lives of the people you save, but the lives of their family and friends,” Klick commented.
The dinner was just the kick-off event of the week. Marketing Matrix also held donor drives at the first SVC Men’s Basketball game on November 16 and at the Activities Programming Board’s Bingo Game on November 17. Students could register to become an organ donor by simply filling out a small slip of paper.
“By doing so, they are entering themselves for a chance to win Saint Vincent merchandise from the bookstore donated by the Baum Family. If you are already an organ donor, you still have a chance at winning prizes by showing your driver’s license,” Klick said.
“We are also distributing cards in student mailboxes that state myths and facts about organ donation,” Klick said. “We hope that by our efforts, we can change the opinion of organ donation throughout the campus.”
Klick also explained the importance of holding the campus wide events. “It is important not only to hold campus-wide events on campus, but to try to positively impact the SVC community. As a Benedictine institution, I believe this is what we were supposed to do.”
“It feels really good to be involved in such a great cause,” Vice President of Marketing Matrix Bill Rummel said. “Since one organ donor can save up to 50 lives, every single donor that signs up is a huge accomplishment.”
Rummel said he helped in arranging members of Marketing Matrix to sit outside the cafeteria to get students and faculty to fill out new donor cards. He also aided in obtaining the guest speaker, Sullivan, for the kick-off dinner.
“I’m really happy with all the support we got from the Saint Vincent community, as well as with the members of Marketing Matrix for their dedication to the project,” Rummel said.
Courtney explained that organ donation has not only changed her husband’s life, but also hers and their family’s: “Whether you become a living donor or register with CORE through your driver’s license or directly with the organization, you may be saving the lives of someone’s parent, sibling, friend, colleague or child. Knowing the facts and signing up today, you may impact the lives of these people and those who love and care for them! We feel blessed that we were able to experience organ donation first hand. It has meant the world to our family already and continue to watch Bob heal, having a second chance at a quality life!’
Those interested in becoming an organ donor can become one by checking the ‘Organ Donor’ box when they receive their next driver’s license or by going to donatelife-pa.org.