Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Gift of Life Transplant House at Mayo Clinic

Edward Pompeian: Pontiac, Michigan’s Gift to the Mayo Clinic
By: Betty Apigian-Kessel
The Armenian Weekly

This is the story of a heroic young man named Edward Paul Pompeian, his devoted mother Helen, and sister Sharon, and his recognition by the National Kidney Foundation for helping those in need of organ transplants by providing them with affordable housing and a caring ear.

The Gift of Life Transplant House was born with an idea from Edward Pompeian. Few people in Michigan know the compassionate heart and good deeds of Edward, an Armenian American whose name should be remembered with eternal pride. He is a Pontiac, Mich. native.

Rochester, Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic, is famous for being a destination for patients facing serious illness. It is considered to have highly trained physicians with the most up-to-date medical information and technology. It’s a place where heads of state, royalty, and the wealthy come to preserve their health. It’s where the life of Edward Pompeian was saved with a kidney transplant in 1973, the donor being his mother Helen.

Over the years I have received a flood of information about the development of Gift of Life from Helen, a mother grateful to God and the clinic for returning Edward’s health. The kidney transplant gave Edward—now in his 50’s—a new lease on life, and he has made the most of it.

Transplant House had its humble beginnings in a motel purchased by Edward when he got on his feet after surgery and became a successful businessman. His focus ever since has remained on helping others.

Edward was frequently ill as a teen, and as his health deteriorated it was suggested his mother take him to the Mayo Clinic. They have never looked back.

It was a drastic decision to uproot the family for the move to Rochester but it ultimately became a life-saving event for Edward. The family decided to become Rochester residents in order to monitor Edward’s health. Sharon became a nurse to help her brother.

I have tremendous admiration for my friend Helen Pompeian, who is the daughter of Armenian Genocide survivors. Until Edward’s illness, she was a member of the Ani Chapter of the Armenian Relief Society (ARS), while Edward along with Sharon were members of the Pontiac “Aharonian” Chapter of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF).

Edward’s name is synonymous with the Gift of Life Transplant House, the first of its kind, where patients needing organ transplants at the Mayo Clinic (along with their caregivers) can have reasonably priced living accommodations. It is his brainchild.

The Transplant House is meant to be a home away from home with clean bedrooms, a dining hall, kitchen, and laundry facilities. It offers an understanding ear to patients and their families.

Edward’s operation in 1973 was Mayo’s 167th transplant surgery. Today that number has climbed to over 10,000.

During Edward’s convalescence, he visited many patients, listening to their fears, concerns, and the financial stress the trip to this famous facility had put on their family. He understood it all and in him it created a goal that he followed through on.

Edward became a successful businessman and it was always in the back of his noble mind to purchase a facility where he could offer transplant patients and their families an inexpensive but safe and clean place to stay.

The Gift of Life Transplant House thus had its beginnings in 1976 with an apartment complex purchased by this young Armenian American man from Michigan, with his mom as his administrative assistant. Some patients, if needed, remain for up to one year.

Edward raised funds to purchase another facility with 51 rooms, but the need for accommodations continued to grow.

Working in conjunction with the Mayo Clinic, philanthropic donations, benefits, golf outings, and corporations, Edward’s work continues. He remains the treasurer on the executive committee of the Board of Directors and has received recognition from the National Kidney Foundation.

Recently Gift of Life constructed a brand new beautifully decorated building with room for 70 more patients.

Not many know of Edward’s sterling efforts. He has a heart of gold and extends the cordiality of love and concern to comfort patients from around the world.

Victims of the 1988 Armenian earthquake were patients at the Mayo Clinic and received the friendship of the Pompeian family.

Rochester is far from being a noted Armenian enclave, but we need to acknowledge the magnanimous work that Edward does for transplant patients.

Edward and wife Jayne have raised and educated three sons and a daughter to adulthood—Nick, Aaron, Edward, and Adrienne. They are a very close-knit family. Aaron provided the kidney for his father’s second kidney transplant.

A few months ago, Sharon Maranian, a Beaumont Hospital specialty nurse, gave a smashing AYF reunion party for her ungers. We were so happy and proud to see Edward and Jayne celebrating with us, surrounded by fine Armenian cuisine. Jayne herself has become an expert at preparing Armenian food, having learned from her mother-in-law Helen.

Edward has overcome many health obstacles and it all started with a mom and sister who refused to give up on a sick teen. Who would have thought this young AYFer would grow to such greatness. Congratulations, Edward.

To be an organ donor or to make a financial contribution to Gift of Life, call (507) 288-7470, email, or visit

Gift of Life, Inc. is an independent, non-profit, tax-exempt Minnesota corporation independently run by a Board of Directors, staff, and volunteers. Contributions to Gift of Life Transplant House qualify for charitable gifts under federal law.

“You Have the Power to Save Lives – Register to be an organ and tissue donor & Tell Your Loved Ones of Your Decision”
Register to be a donor in Ontario at Trillium Gift of Life Network NEW for Ontario: - Learn The Ins & Outs Of Organ And Tissue Donation. Register Today! For other Canadian provinces click here
In the United States, be sure to find out how to register in your state at or Download Donor Cards from OrganDonor.Gov
In Great Britain, register at NHS Organ Donor Register
In Australia, register at Australian Organ Donor Register
Your generosity can save or enhance the lives of up to fifty people with heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas and small intestine transplants (see allotransplantation). One tissue donor can help by donating skin, corneas, bone, tendon, ligaments and heart valves

Has your life been saved by an organ transplant? "Pay it forward" and help spread the word about the need for organ donation - In the U.S. another person is added to the national transplant waiting list every 11 minutes and 18 people die each day waiting for an organ or tissue transplant. Organs can save lives, corneas renew vision, and tissue may help to restore someone's ability to walk, run or move freely without pain. Life Begins with You

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