Beyond the Call

By | April 12th, 2017

When Charlie Garaventa, Food & Beverage Manager of The Country Club of Landfall took it upon himself to provide an extraordinary service for a member, he found his own rewards.

Many clubs reward staff for going “above and beyond” for members. But when Charlie Garaventa, Food & Beverage Manager of The Country Club of Landfall in Wilmington, N.C., took it upon himself to provide an extraordinary service for a member, he found his own rewards.

Last year, while chatting with member Ingela Kirby at the club, Garaventa, 54, learned that Kirby had been struggling to find a match for a kidney she needed following a heart transplant. Kirby had been added to a transplant list, but that wait, Garaventa learned, could be as long as five years. Kirby’s doctor had said she’d be better off finding her own donor, but no close family or friends were proving to be suitable matches.

Garaventa knew how hard it could be to wait for an organ—10 years earlier, his son was in need of a kidney, but was on the transplant list for only two days before a compatible cadaver provided one.

“My first thought was to pay it forward,” Garaventa says. “We were blessed and I wanted to help someone out. So I asked, ‘Do you want me to get tested?’”

Though Kirby was shocked by the offer, she was grateful, and suggested Garaventa talk through the decision with his wife. Garaventa underwent the battery of blood and tissue testing and learned that he was compatible with Kirby. “The strange thing is, I was more compatible with her than I was with my son,” Garaventa says, adding that, in another coincidental twist, the tests were done on the same two days in September when he had been tested for his son 10 years earlier.

By February 2, the day after Kirby’s 75th birthday, they were both under the knife at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. Garaventa’s surgery took about five hours on a Thursday morning, went off “without a hitch,” and he was discharged the following Friday afternoon. Since the surgery, Kirby is “doing incredible; it’s unbelievable,” Garaventa says.

Previously, Garaventa and Kirby were not especially close, though they had known each other through the club for about 15 years. Since their procedures, they see or interact with each other at least once a week, when Kirby plays Mahjong with her ladies group at the club, or just by exchanging texts.

With both parties back at the club, members hosted a social to honor Garaventa on March 16, which had 80 members in attendance. Members shared the love by setting up a crowdfunding campaign for Garaventa, who used his personal time off for the surgery, raising $16,000.

“When one of the Board members told me they set this up for me, I started crying before he even told me what amount they raised,” Garaventa says. “More than anything, it was the gesture that I was so moved by.”

Though Garaventa has to limit how much he can lift going forward, he believes the effort was well worth it. “The discomfort will go away, but that feeling of helping someone is just incredible,” he says. “It was just the right thing to do.”

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