RIT on TV: Lauren Aggen

Uploaded by RITUniversityNews on 20.12.2010

>>ANCHOR: It’s certainly the season of giving.
Organizations across the country and right here in Rochester are reminding people to
give the gift of life.
There are currently more than 100,000 people in the United States waiting for a life-saving
transplant, 8,000 in New York.
YNN Health Reporter Casey Bortnick and photojournalist Matt Mann report on how a local college student
is trying to inspire people to become organ donors this holiday season.
>>CASEY: From designing and repairing costumes…
>>LAUREN: I just have to be involved.
>>CASEY: …to performing on stage
>>LAUREN: I love it. I would do it every single day of my life if I could.
>>CASEY: Lauren Aggen always seemed destined for the theater.
>>LAUREN: I was always very dramatic. I hope in a good way.
>>CASEY: She’s also determined.
>>LAUREN: I’m very driven.
>>CASEY: A quality she picked up from her parents in suburban Chicago.
>>LAUREN: They taught me never use my medical condition as an excuse. And I think that's
something really important in life. >>CASEY: Lauren is a college student at the
Rochester’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf.
She uses hearing aids and sign language to help her communicate.
Aggen is immune compromised and takes 32 pills a day.
>>LAUREN: If I don't take the medicine, my body will know that my heart is not my heart.
And it will go into rejection and then I will die.
>>CASEY: Soon after Aggen was born doctors at a Chicago hospital discovered something
was wrong - a valve in her heart was too small to pump blood through her body.
>>LAUREN: And I only had three days to live, unless I got a heart transplant. And three
days would be Christmas. >>CASEY: Seven days passed, and Aggen was
about to be taken off the transplant list until a phone call from Austin, Texas changed
her life. A baby boy there had died from sudden infant
death syndrome. His heart was a perfect match. >>LAUREN: When the put it in, usually they
have to stimulate it, start the heart. But it just beat on its own.
>>CASEY: Lauren survived but her life has been filled with challenges. The drugs she
took while waiting for a transplant cost her her hearing. She even went into a brief coma
at the age of six. >>LAUREN: It was just one thing after another.
>>CASEY: Despite the obstacles, Lauren excelled, graduating high school with high honors.
>>LAUREN: I think part of it is my donor family. Even though I don't know who they are, they
have really inspired me to want to do the best I can do.
>>CASEY: In an effort to say thank you and promote organ donation, Lauren wrote a book.
>>LAUREN: Austin’s Gift. >>CASEY: It chronicles her life and pays tribute
to the baby boy and his family who gave the ultimate Christmas gift. Lauren has been unable
to track them down. >>LAUREN: And, you know, they don't have to
meet me. But I just want them to know that because of them I'm here. And I'm very grateful.
And I'm trying to do things to express my gratitude to them.
>>CASEY: It's a gift of life Lauren doesn't plan on wasting. A gift she hopes to share
with others. >>LAUREN: That's my gift of telling people
my story. That's my gift. But my gift wouldn’t have been here if it was not for my donor
family. >>CASEY: Lauren actually started writing her
book, Austin’s Gift, when she was just 13. The Make-A Wish Foundation helped her publish
it. The book will be released December 20th, two days before Lauren’s 21st birthday.
And if you’d like to hear more of Lauren’s story – and trust me, there’ s a lot more
– you can go to our website Rochester.ynn.com for a link on how you can order her book.
>>ANCHOR: OK, she’s a student at NTID. What are her future plans? What does she want to
do down the road?
>>CASEY: Well what she really wants to do is be a teacher.
But because she’s immune-compromised, even something like chicken pox, as simple as that,
could kill her. It’s really not what she can get into, but
she’s still looking to do something with kids.
And as you saw, she’s so determined, I’m sure she’ll find a way to make that happen.
>>ANCHOR: All right, Casey, nice story tonight, thanks.
>>CASEY: Thanks, Mike.