Family’s Donation Journey Comes Full Circle

A year after her husband Rod’s death, Laura Baumgart received a letter from a recipient of his donated tissue.

It read, in part, “I received tissue bone from your family member. My procedure was done to correct severe spinal stenosis and nerve damage…in an attempt to improve my mobility and live an active healthy, lifestyle. THANK YOU for your unselfish and courageous gift. Sincerely, Vivian.”

Laura remembers the call she received from Nebraska Organ Recovery shortly after Rod passed away on August 14, 2011. She knew Rod was a registered donor and would want to help others. But it wasn’t until she received the letter from Vivian that she started to comprehend the magnitude of Rod’s gifts.

Ninety-five and Counting

Vivian’s letter was dated August 16, 2012—two days after the anniversary of Rod’s death. Laura was surprised to read that Vivian’s surgery had taken place just a month earlier. At the time, she didn’t know that donated tissue like Rod’s could be used up to five years after the donor’s death.

Eager to know more, she reached out to Nebraska Organ Recovery. A pleasant phone call ended with a promise that Laura would soon hear more about Rod’s donation.

Then, a second letter came. This one included an accounting of the 95 grafts that already been made from Rod’s donated tissue.

The aortic heart valve, pulmonary heart valve and saphenous vein had been sent to hospitals in Oregon, Texas and California.

Thirty-three patients had received bone grafts for orthopedic surgeries.

Vivian was among six patients who had received bone grafts for spinal surgeries.

Forty-six additional bone grafts would be used for future surgeries.

Seven patients received tendons to repair knee injuries.

Coming Full Circle

Laura takes pride in knowing Rod has impacted so many lives, and over the years she’s come to believe that everyone is touched by donation in one way or another.

Ironically, Laura and her son Ryan may have both been part of a list in a letter that another grieving family received. Laura needed a tendon graft for knee surgery; Ryan for his shoulder.

Another family member, Laura’s niece, is on dialysis awaiting a second kidney transplant.

Family and friends of Rod Baumgart gather at the 2017 Rodski Open. The event celebrates the life of Baumgart whose donation has impacted more than 95 people. 


So on July 28th, Rod’s family and friends will gather for the 7th annual Rodski Open, a golf event that pays tribute to the compassionate husband, father and friend who took pride in his family and lived life to the fullest.

It’s an opportunity to share stories and toast to the memory of the man Laura describes as “an extraordinary person—a ton of fun and a true friend to all he met.”

For seven years the Rodski Open has carried forward Rod’s giving spirit by raising money for charities close to the Baumgart family’s heart. This year, Laura hopes to make a difference for her niece and the other 114,000 Americans waiting for a life-saving transplant by donating the proceeds of the scramble to Nebraska Organ Recovery.

You can also honor Rod by signing up to be an organ and tissue donor.

Posted: July 27, 2018

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