Tod Kowalczyk wants students, faculty and staff at The University of Toledo to recognize the importance of being an organ donor.
That’s why the UT men’s head basketball coach is sharing a story as part of a campaign for Donate Life Ohio, an organization that is partnering with several UT students to promote Organ Donation Awareness Month during April.
Several years ago, Kowalczyk received alarming news about his close friend and colleague at Marquette University, Coach Trey Schwab. Hired within a month of each other, the two coaches joined the Marquette family, but shortly after, Schwab developed a rare lung disease and was in need of a double lung transplant in order to save his life.
Schwab was put on a transplant waiting list for almost four years until receiving the overwhelming news that he was eligible to receive the greatest gift of all: the gift of life.
After a near death experience, Schwab recovered from the transplant and now is the outreach coordinator of Donate Life Wisconsin.
Kowalczyk journeyed through this life-changing experience with his friend and is grateful that his life was saved by the selflessness of a stranger.
“What surprises me is the gratitude of the families that receive such a gift, and rightfully so,” Kowalczyk said.
Prior to this experience, Kowalczyk was an organ donor; however, he was not as well informed as he is today.
“I didn’t know much about organ donation before I met Trey, but since then it’s always been something that is very dear to me,” he said. “Every place I’ve been, I try to promote it. I talk to my team about it, and I don’t talk to my team about many topics outside of academics, their lives and basketball. This is one area that I really stress to my players; I want them to be involved and to be organ donors.”
Kowalczyk said he didn’t have any major misconceptions about organ and tissue donation, but, like so many, did not know enough about this life-saving topic.
“We need to get the word out there. I think it’s something that everyone should do; there is no reason not to,” Kowalczyk said.
He hopes that Donate Life Ohio can help dispel the misconceptions of organ donation and encourages students, faculty and staff to sign up to become organ donors.
“When someone can impact so many different families and save lives, that’s the coolest thing you can be a part of,” Kowalczyk said. “I think that college campuses are a great place to get the word out about organ donation. Let’s face it, college-aged students are the next generation and informing them about the cause will provide organ donors for the future.”
Donate Life Ohio representatives, along with several UT students and staff, can be found around campus this month with the trademark “Big Green Chair” and are offering the opportunity for you to save a life and to sign up to become an organ donor.
For more information, visit donatelifeohio.org.