Monday, January 14, 2008
Help Me Howard: Kidney and College
College courses can certainly be a challenge. Now, imagine trying to attend school after a life changing personal loss. It was too much for one South Florida student. She had to drop out, but does the school have to refund her money? Here's Patrick Fraser with tonight's Help me Howard.
WSVN -- The e-mail was written by a mother begging for someone to save her dying son.
Frances Steinmark: "There was a long, drawn-out process of watching him suffer and watching his condition deteriorate."
The request went to everyone at Temple b'nai Israel.
Pam Garrett: "I opened the e-mail, and it was a desperate mother's plea for help, somebody to donate a kidney."
Pam didn't know Mason, but she instantly knew she had to try to help save his life.
Pam Garrett: "Most people thought it was a little strange, like, why would you do this, it's not a family member, but I really wanted to do it."
Frances Steinmark: "It was an unbelievable moment filled with emotion, gratitude and love."
Then Pam went to Jackson Memorial Hospital to see if she was a match, more good news. And so it began the process for the dual operations and began the relationship between a young woman determined to save a young man's life.
Pam Garrett: "I just loved him like a baby brother from the start, and I just knew it was going to happen."
The relationship that developed between Mason and Pam was exceptionally very, very special.
Six months later, Pam's kidney was put in Mason's body. He instantly started getting better and better, making Pam happier and happier.
Suddenly, 10 months later, Mason died.
Pam Garrett: "Then it was so unexpected. It was just like somebody knocked the wind right out of my sails."
Fran says Pam took it as hard as anyone.
Frances Steinmark: "When Mason died, Pam was absolutely devastated, none of us could function."
At the time, Pam was in school at Palm Beach Community College. She was so upset at Mason's death she was not able to go to class.
Pam Garrett: "I just didn't feel like I could finish the semester at the time."
Pam then made what she thought was a simple request, asking the school to refund her $230 tuition. She got back an e-mail that said the school denied your refund because Mason was not a family member. Fran was stunned.
Frances Steinmark: "Pam's kidney was buried inside Mason. A part of Pam died when Mason died, how much closer do you have to get to an individual to experience that kind of loss, to be told 'No, we can't refund your deposit of tuition.' That's absurd in my mind."
Pam says she was insulted with the implication that she was not close to a man she had donated part of her body to.
Pam Garrett: "It's not the money, it's not the money that is bothering me, it's the whole principal. I mean how close can you get with somebody?."
But, legally, what can Pam do, Howard?
Howard Finkelstein: "Legally, the school does not have to refund the money, but morally it would be very wrong indeed not to I can't think of a greater connection to another person than giving them part of yourself."
We then e-mailed the school president and called their media representative. They wouldn't talk to us about Pam's case. Then, after we told them the story was still going to air, the school got back with us telling us that the registrar's office had denied Pam's request because the kidney recipient was not an immediate family member.
However, the school's president had decided to overrule the decision that, in keeping with the spirit of family, they decided to refund the $230 back to Pam.
Howard Finkelstein: "Major companies, large schools have to have rules, but blindly following rules without looking at the people and circumstances in front of them can lead to lawful, but wrongful decisions, and it can lead to embarrassing decisions. In this case, fortunately, the school president stepped in and did the right and honorable thing."
Pam is happy to have her money returned to her. Fran just hopes the school has learned a lesson and is a little more kind-hearted in the future.
Frances Steinmark: "She acted selflessly and generously, and that's not how you treat people that are that good."
Patrick Fraser: "So what do you do if you are dealing with a company, a college and a school that won't bend its rules or give you a break? Well, if going up the bureaucratic ladder doesn't work, call us."
A generous gesture come back to hurt you? Want someone to donate some time to you? Contact us, its not a miracle when we solve something. Although, if you knew us, you might wonder.
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