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Saturday, Nov 01, 2014

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Brian Bourgraf

Brian Bourgraf

Photo courtesy of: Zach Bourgraf

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Students for Organ Donation to host awareness event on Tuesday


Brian K. Bourgraf was born on Dec. 13, 1963. Along with his entry to the world came something that would change medical records for decades to come. 

Bourgraf's story is one among many others propelling the efforts of Ohio University's new student organization, the Ohio University Chapter of Students for Organ Donation.

Bourgraf was born with Eagle-Barrett Syndrome, a group of birth defects causing underdevelopment of the abdominal muscles, undescended testicles and urinary tract problems. Many infants born with the condition die within weeks unless surgery is completed early.  

If Bourgraf had any chance at survival, he needed a double kidney transplant. However, in 1963, the double kidney transplant had only been performed on baboons. For Bourgraf's procedure to be successful, the doctors who led the baboon experiments would have to take a leap of faith and mimic the operation on Bourgraf. 

The group will promote an understanding of organ donation and the importance of the subject with a film screening of "Seven Pounds," starring Will Smith, on Tuesday, Feb. 12. The organization's members will introduce the film with brief personal narratives about the impact organ donation has had on their lives.

The free movie event is at the Baker University Center Theatre at 7 p.m. Refreshments will follow. 

"We're mainly wanting to raise awareness," said Zach Bourgraf, member and senior communications student. "It's not like jury duty … they don't just call you up and say 'We need your organ.' Organ donation is a serious topic, but we want to give students the option of signing up." 

Zach Bourgraf's life mission was changed after learning about the gift of organ donation his uncle, Brian Bourgraf, was given.

With the donation of two child-sized kidneys, Brian Bourgraf went under the knives of two leading kidney surgeons. He was four years old. The surgeons followed the same techniques and anatomy they employed on the baboons. After more than an hour, his surgery was deemed a triumph. 

He was now a breakthrough case in the world of organ transplants. But 43 years later, his kidneys failed him again. As potential kidney donors were organized, doctors grew skeptical that the surgery would not take because of his rare blood type. 

Family members were brought in for testing and Bourgraf's brother Joe, Brian's father, and his nephew Chris were matches. Brian Bourgraf, once again, was on the pathway to defeating death. After weeks of dialysis, he received his fifth kidney from Joe Bourgraf. To the doctor's surprise, the surgery was effective. 

With gracious donors and experienced doctors, Brian Bourgraf defeated death twice. 

"Every day is a gift, never forget it," said Zach Bourgraf.