Marine Park Teacher Searching Desperately For Kidney Donor
The 41-year-old has taught social studies at the Marine Park middle school, I.S. 278 on Stuart Street for thirteen years. Guariglia, who is an alumnus of the school, said his primary motivation to become a teach-er was to give back to the community. "Becoming a doctor took too long," he joked.
Fourteen years ago, Guariglia was diagnosed with polycystic, a genetic disease that attacks the kidneys allowing cysts to grow, enlarging the kidney and inhibiting its function. Doctors assured him that it was not something he needed to worry about at the time. However, in 2006, his kidney function dropped from 60 percent to about 20 percent, making a kidney transplant necessary. Personal issues in his life, including the death of his father, delayed the search until earlier this year.
Guariglia began to search for donors by placing flyers with local merchants and contacting local civic associations. A friend also contacted the Canarsie Courier to run a brief article about the donor search, which the weekly ran semi-regularly for several months. Guariglia said that though there have been responses as a result of the Courier coverage, he has yet to find a match.
At first, he did not intend to tell his students about his condition, but when some of them saw flyers, the word got out. Guariglia said that he did not want to burden students, but once they knew, he decided to be honest with them.
Two former students, Nancy and Bella (they asked not to have their surnames published), bound for high school, said that they were saddened by the news.
"I cried," admitted Nancy.
The coeds used to have lunch with "their favorite teacher" every Wednesday, where they discussed Guariglia's condition, as well as their personal issues.
"He's like our father," Bella said.
As much as he means to his students, Guariglia said they mean a lot to him and, along with his wife, are a vital part of his support system.
The teacher maintains contact with his students and continues to spread the word about his need for a kidney with Web pages on MySpace.com and Face-book. As a result, former students and potential donors have contacted him.
"Kids that I taught eight years ago, ten years ago, twelve years ago, are not only getting in contact with me, but they can remember the littlest things that happened in the classroom as though it was yesterday," said Guariglia.
One former student helped him to get in touch with the "Help Me Howard" segment of the CW11's News at Ten. The segment, taped last week, is scheduled to air tonight (July 31) and then be archived on the Web with a link to Guariglia's personal website www.misterGworld.com.
Almost a dozen potential donors have come forward to date, but all have been disqualified for various reasons. Guariglia says that the support from the community has been great. That assistance will continue on August 13th when City Councilman Lew Fidler will host a blood drive at his office at 1402 East 64th Street. Guariglia will be there to raise aware-ness about organ donation. For more information and to sign up, call 1-718-241-6330.
Potential kidney donors must be blood type "O" positive or negative, in good physical and mental health, and over the age of twenty-one. There is no out of pocket expense for the donor, who will have the procedure at a top Manhattan hospital.
Time has become a critical factor for the beloved teacher, so those who are not eligible donors are ask-ed to help spread the word.