If a dog answers, don't hang up


October 28, 2007|By LAURA VOZZELLA

A. Robert Kaufman is closer to getting a kidney, no thanks to how he's listed in the phone book.

Baltimore's most steadfast Socialist, who's always running for something, including mayor this year, has never persuaded many citizens to give him their votes. But someone who saw him in the televised mayoral debate in August wants to give him a kidney.

Kaufman has been in need of a kidney and on dialysis ever since a near-fatal beating and stabbing in 2005. He never misses a chance to make a public plea for an organ. Debate night was no exception. Somebody out there watching on TV thought, "Why not?"

"His story touched me," said that somebody, a 50ish salesman who asked not to be identified by name. "I really don't want any publicity. This isn't about that. It's about a person helping another person. It's not a big deal."

The guy will say this much about himself: His desire to share an organ does not spring from a Kaufmanesque share-the-wealth ideology.

"I don't even agree with his politics," the guy said. "I think they're futile. In fact, I think they're funny. He's a very brilliant man, I'm sure, but his politics are his politics."

The compassionate capitalist tried to look Kaufman up in the book. But there's no A. Robert Kaufman listed. Most people know Kaufman by Robert, or Bob. So Kaufman lists himself as Robert A. Kaufman.

"To help people find me, I put my dog's name, too," Kaufman said. "So it's `Robert A. and Fang Kaufman.' I told them [at the phone company] it's my brother's name."

Fang wasn't much help to the potential kidney patron, who has never met Kaufman, much less his dog, who died 20 years ago. The guy was at a loss, so frustrated that he recently grumbled about his failed Kaufman quest to a stranger with whom he'd struck up a conversation at Starbucks in the Inner Harbor.

The stranger happened to be a friend of Kaufman's since childhood, and he still had his number.

The rest, as they say, is ... well, just the beginning of the long, complicated transplant process.

Kaufman and the prospective donor share the same blood type, A, which Kaufman tells me is not essential, but helpful. The prospective donor said he's been deemed a suitable donor, but it's possible that his kidney will be considered a better match for another patient. If that's the case, Kaufman would get somebody else's organ in one of those elaborate transplant switcheroos. No telling when that would actually come to pass, but Kaufman has hope.

The serendipitous Starbucks encounter has convinced the capitalist that the donation won't just happen, but was meant to be. "I believe in divine intervention," he said. "I have a strong belief in the spirit."

What does the Socialist say about that?

"I'm an atheist but thank God."

Keep the day job

No one was sorrier than Johns Hopkins astrophysicist Bill Blair to see NASA's FUSE satellite go dark recently. The university's chief of FUSE operations eased the pain by writing and performing a song. Called "FUSE's Lament," it is set to the tune of "Memory" from Cats:

"Midnight, not a sound from controllers / Have they lost my transmissions? I am flying alone / In the darkness, I slowly spin, reflecting the moon / Let my batteries ... charge again!

"Memories, all alone in my orbit / I remember my launch day, I was beautiful then / With four wheels I could point where'er they wanted me to / Now my four wheels will not spin.

"First my gyro-scopes stopped working / Then my wheels started swerving / But torquer bars helped me to point at stars / And soon I was observing!

"Now, though, my observing is finished / I am nothing but space junk / I am cold and alone / But my data are safely archived down on the earth / Let my spectra ... live again!"

Blair belted that out before a crowd of about 200 gathered for a sort of satellite going-away party, even though as a singer, he's a really good scientist.

"I don't have a great voice. My wife is actually a singer. She's with Baltimore Choral Arts Society. She has a really solo-quality voice," he said. "I can carry a tune in a basket."

A devotion to uplift

Among the celebrity designers asked to create wild, wacky or beautiful bras for a charity fund-raiser: Ed Norris Show producer Stacey Brown.

It's a 36-C, all done up in blue and gold sequins, with little police hat and cruiser charms dangling from the bottom. Title: "Busted."

It's one of about 110 bras that LifeBridge Health is auctioning off Tuesday to raise money for cancer patients in need of wigs, prosthetics and other things insurance doesn't cover. You can see them at the Meyerhoff for free Tuesday from noon to 4 p.m. Or fork over $70 to check them out over cocktails from 6 to 9 that night.

Nothing to sniff at

Baltimore health commissioner Dr. Joshua Sharfstein made Newsweek's roundup of quotable quotes with this comment, made to an Associated Press reporter who'd pressed him on how to treat children's colds after he got over-the-counter medicines off store shelves:

"If you can actually pull a booger out with a suction device, people can feel better."

Newsweek wasn't the only place to pick it up. Google "Sharfstein" and "booger" and you get 2,430 hits.

"I learned my lesson," Sharfstein said. "Next time, I won't use such a technical term. A friend said I broke the booger barrier."

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