Most people know Robert Boudwin by his job. He is Clutch, the Houston Rockets Mascot. He is in the Mascot Hall of Fame and has won national awards being the silly, happy, fun bear that everyone loves but there is a serious side to the man behind the mask. DISH sat with Robert to talk about how he chose to spend his 38th birthday.
DISH: Robert, tell me about how you ended up connecting with the Life Gift?
RB: My Dad had been suffering from a degenerative and terminal non life style related lung disease called Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) that has no known cure or treatment. He had been battling it for 4 years when things started to get worse the summer of 2011 and started to rapidly degenerate from that point on. The only thing that could be done to help was a lung transplant. It is not easy to qualify as organs are in high demand and short supply. Patients need to be sick enough to significantly benefit from a transplant, but not so sick that the transplant won't make a big enough difference if there are other problems. Doctors want to ensure that organs go to those who can benefit most. After the first of the year, my Dad got really bad when the disease started to take hold even more so and he was placed on 24 hour oxygen and pretty much confined to his home. IPF many times includes a slow degeneration and then a rapid fall off in just a few months or even weeks. That is what was happening to my father. Doctors at Methodist hospital began the process of evaluating whether he was a lung transplant candidate in mid January and had further test scheduled for February 13th, 2012 to make a final determination as to whether he could be on the transplant list and just where his need/rank would be on that list. Unfortunately and fortunately he did not get to do those tests on February 13th. On February 2 I brought my twin boys Jack and Luke to visit my parents for the day and as soon as I entered the house realized things were critical. My Dad could barely get out of bed with oxygen turned up all the way and assistance. He could not get through an entire sentence when speaking. We would come to find out later that the disease had significantly taken hold deteriorating what little was left of his lungs and was compounded by a severe case of pneumonia. After some discussion, I convinced my father to let me call his doctors and speak to them about the current situation. His blood oxygen levels would drop to critical levels when he would do anything other than lay in bed. I quickly learned form the doctors that oxygen levels like that are critical and everything from heart attack to stroke to other organ failure is an immanent risk. I needed to rush him to the ER immediately. He could not even make it to the car with assistance and oxygen without having to stop to sit in a chair just 15 feet from the car door. After spending some time in the ER my father was admitted to the IMU (just one level below the ICU) where he spent a week receiving high doses of steroids and antibiotics as well as other medications while bed ridden. He was also on 16 liters of oxygen the maximum that can be applied (only 6 liters can be administered at home). The Doctors saved his life that day. They said that if he hadn't come in then, there was a good chance he could have died that day or night. After the pneumonia cleared, he was out of immediate danger, but they told me without a lung transplant he only had a couple of months to live. The doctors at Methodist were amazing! They were both highly skilled experts as well as compassionate human beings. Within 7 days my father was on the transplant list in the second position. A week after that on February 15th, 2012 my Dad received a successful double lung transplant that saved his life, God willing with continued recovery allow him to see his grandchildren grow up and continue to dance to the Beach Boys with their Pop-Pop:). My father Paul would be dead right now if it weren't for the amazing gift of life that a generous organ donor made and decided in advance. Through one tragedy that my family greatly mourned and still mourns, a wonderful miracle was made possible and my father lives. He became friends with a family next to us in the hospital waiting room. Their family member, Reggie, received a heart transplant from the same donor. Reggie's life was saved as well! My father was in the hospital recovering and his body learning to accept his new lungs for almost 3 months. I visited him almost every day along with my young brother Paul and Mother as well as Aunts from the East Coast who made multiple trips to see Dad and support us. One day I came across the Life Gift table set up in the concourse celebrating Donate Life month set for April. I was immediately drawn to this cause and this specific organization for obvious reasons. I wanted to do anything I could to help them in their vision of getting everyone to say YES to organ, eye, and tissue donation. I learned that 18 people die everyday who could have otherwise been saved if there were available organs. I also learned that there are 114,000 people in our country currently waiting on the transplant list for their second chance. I made a financial donation and also asked if I could help spread their message as a spokesperson whose life was so greatly touched by an organ donor. They said yes and were happy to have me on board. We have just started our relationship with me as a spokesperson for them this summer.
DISH: What are you doing to help them raise awareness and money?
RB: So far I have recorded a 2 minute PSA on video for them. It was just completed and so far they have used it on their web site and social media sites. They will also be using it to show live at presentations. I had my first live speaking engagement and presentation on July, 31st for the entire Houston Rockets organization at their monthly All-Team Members meeting. I will begin speaking for the organization at other various events they coordinate after a press release is done in August. In addition to awareness I hosted a fundraising event for my 38th birthday and asked guest to bring donations for Life Gift in instead of gifts for the birthday boy/bear;) We raised $7,500.
DISH: Why this particular transplant/organ donation charity?
RB: I came in contact with them at Methodist Hospital where my Dad received his double lung transplant and was being treated in recovery. It is the organization in this area responsible for organ, eye, and tissue donation awareness and also coordinates organs with their recipients at the actual hospital.
Here is the Video Robert shot for Life Gift! Please CLICK HERE to donate!