Friendship spurs search for donor

Transplant: A retired Baltimore County educator needs a kidney, and a retired physician is determined he'll have one.

March 22, 2002|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

For more than 30 years, David Greenwood shaped an enduring legacy in Baltimore County as a science teacher and a high school principal.

Now, in perhaps his greatest moment of need, the tightknit communities of Dundalk and Sparrows Point are being asked not to forget Greenwood's contributions.

Greenwood, 66, is one of about 2,700 people in Maryland awaiting an organ donor. Afflicted with diabetes, he needs a new kidney.

Leading the charge to help the retired educator is one of Greenwood's oldest friends, Dr. Ted Patterson. The two grew up in Sparrows Point, in Bethlehem Steel's company town. Patterson was raised on I Street, where the families of black steelworkers had to live. Greenwood was on H Street, with white families.

"We were only two blocks apart but because of segregation, it might as well have been two miles," said Patterson, a retired physician now living in Millers Island.

Years later, the two met through a chance medical emergency. The friendship blossomed.

Patterson is busy these days going to schools and churches on Baltimore County's east side, reminding people - many Greenwood's former students and colleagues - of the need for a donor.

Greenwood might get a kidney from a deceased donor, but a live donor could spare an organ and meet the need more quickly.

Fliers are posted on bulletin boards in places like Patapsco High School, where Greenwood was principal for 10 years, and St. Rita's Roman Catholic Church, urging people to get blood tests for compatibility.

The physician, who spent his career practicing medicine in Turners Station and Dundalk, is also using Greenwood's personal journey as an educational tool.

On April 10, a seminar called "Give A Gift of Life" will be held at the North Point Library in Dundalk. Officials from the Transplant Resource Center of Maryland and the University of Maryland Medical Center will speak about how people can become organ and tissue donors. A transplant recipient and a donor will tell their stories.

"People have no idea of the ordeal patients have to go through, that they must wait for years before they locate a compatible donor, if they ever do," Patterson said.

Three times a week, Greenwood receives dialysis treatments. Diabetes has cost him both legs, from just above the knee, and deeply changed how he views the future.

No matter. He embraces each day with a zest that is contagious.

"True friends are one of life's perks," said Greenwood. "You can't curse the cards dealt you in life. You must adapt and overcome the best you know how."

Greenwood is staying in Marco Island, Fla., with his wife, Sue, to avoid problems with Maryland's weather. "Getting to dialysis treatments could have been a problem with my wheelchair in a typical Baltimore blizzard," said Greenwood. "As it turned out, I'm getting out when it's nice down here and swimming in a pool."

Greenwood's positive attitude is no surprise to people like Robert Y. Dubel, former Baltimore County school superintendent.

"He was a tremendous teacher and principal," said Dubel. Greenwood worked for him as an assistant superintendent for two years before retiring in 1990.

"His strong point at Patapsco was that the kids loved him, he was a wonderful motivator," Dubel said. "I am tremendously fond of Dave. He's a courageous person."

For Patterson, seeing his old pal battle diabetes has put fire in his belly. "It's gratifying to see how many people remember him, the folks who were his students or people who taught with him."

Greenwood made his mark in areas besides education.

He was chairman of the Dundalk Centennial Celebration Association and, for nearly 20 years, president of the Dundalk Concert Association. While president of the Dundalk Jaycees, he nominated Patterson to be the organization's first black member.

Today, Patterson treasures that gesture. And the retired doctor still laughs heartily at his introduction to Greenwood.

In October 1966, the physician made an emergency house call one morning to Greenwood's home on Dunmanway in Dundalk.

There he found the teacher writhing in pain from a gall bladder attack. Patterson treated his new patient and injected a narcotic painkiller, rendering Greenwood immobile but comfortable.

Trouble was, Greenwood had two tickets for Game 3 of the World Series between the Orioles and the Dodgers at Memorial Stadium. Greenwood had planned to take his mother, Rowena, but couldn't get out of bed.

So, Patterson "sacrificed" by taking the two tickets, went to the game with Greenwood's mother and watched a superb pitching performance as the Orioles' Wally Bunker shut out the Dodgers 1-0.

"As a postscript, Ted sent me a bill for his house call," Greenwood said. "That was how we actually became friends, and a better friend a person can't have."

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