Cox EMBA Student Gives the Gift of a Lifetime



Published on: 01/23/2014
Posted on: 01/23/2014
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Abstract:
With the spring semester in full swing, most of us would be hard put to recall most of the gifts we gave or received for Christmas just one month ago. Not so for SMU Cox Executive MBA (EMBA) student Rob Hamilton.

With the spring semester in full swing, most of us would be hard put to recall most of the gifts we gave or received for Christmas just one month ago. Not so for SMU Cox Executive MBA student Rob Hamilton (EMBA ’14). Rob’s journey to giving the most meaningful gift of his life began in October, as he was preparing to depart on the EMBA global studies trip to Chengdu and Shanghai, China. His 35-year-old sister Shannon, who is a life-long diabetic, called him to say her kidneys were failing. She asked a simple question of her big brother: “Will you donate one of your kidneys to me?”

“There was no question in my mind that I wanted to help her anyway I could,” says Rob, “but since she called just before our required international trip, I had to wait until I got back to Texas to take the tests to determine if my kidney was compatible.” After weeks of uncertainty, Rob was told that his kidney was a perfect match just before Thanksgiving.

Great news and easy enough…except that Rob lives in Frisco, Texas, and his sister lives in Richmond, Virginia. Rob, a 41-year-old father of three children, is the chief operating officer at Med-Trans, a national air medical provider company based in Dallas. As an EMBA student on track to graduate this May, Rob has spent months taking extraordinary measures to balance class assignments with work duties and personal responsibilities. Nonetheless, picking up and moving for more than a month to another state—not to mention undergoing a potentially life-threatening surgical procedure—required careful planning, a sacrifice of time and health, and team work from family, co-workers and EMBA program colleagues.

First, Rob and his wife reached out to her parents to come to Frisco to stay with the couple’s three young children, ages 11, 8 and 6, while his wife planned to accompany him to Virginia to aid him through his post-surgery recuperation. Next, he arranged with Med-Trans CEO Fred Buttrell, a 1997 graduate of the SMU Cox EMBA program, to get the needed time away from the office. Then, he asked the Assistant Dean of the Executive EMBA Program Tom Perkowski to take his December final exams one week early and away from campus rather than on-site.

Perkowski gave the okay without hesitation, but there was still one hitch. Some of the EMBA final exams were supposed to be oral exams done in a group setting with fellow EMBA students. Rob sought the help of classmates, several of whom juggled their schedules and cut short their own test preparations to make it possible for Rob to complete his exams early.

“The support of my fellow EMBAs means a lot to me,” says Rob. “I’ll always remember their generosity of time and spirit. It made the difference between life and death for my sister, and I’ll always be grateful.” 

On Tuesday, December 3, during a successful five-hour surgery at the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, Rob donated one of his healthy kidneys to his ailing sister. Even though recuperation went smoothly for both siblings, Rob was required to stay in Richmond for 30 days after the surgery as a precautionary measure. That meant Christmas in Richmond for Rob and his wife, Elizabeth. The couple’s children flew up for the holiday with Rob’s in-laws. “They are terrific folks,” says Rob. “I’m indebted to them and to my wife for what they were willing to do to help my sister and me. Words cannot express my gratitude, especially for Elizabeth’s efforts to lovingly care me back to health.” 

Shannon is still in need of a pancreas transplant and remains on the waiting list, but according to Rob, she reports feeling “better than ever.”

On January 4, weeks after he first got the distress call from his sister and one month and one day after the surgery, Rob flew back to Frisco. When EMBA classes resumed on January 10, Rob went back to life as usual…after giving the gift of a lifetime, the gift of life to his sister Shannon.

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