Ben Strake, a 2004 graduate of Washington High School, is looking for a perfect match for his mom, Sue Bierbaum, Labadie.
The one thing you need to know about her is that she’s Type O, he said, as in her blood type. That’s the first criteria to knowing if you and Bierbaum, who is in need of a kidney donation, are a perfect match.
Strake, who runs a business brokerage company and is co-owner of Byrd & Barrel restaurants and Tamm Avenue Bar, is putting his marketing and promotion acumen to work in trying to find his mom a new kidney, while at the same time raising awareness of the need for organ donation.
He has created a special website at Match.Mom that is a play on the popular online dating site, match.com. If you type the URL Match.Mom into your internet brower, it will automatically take you to the website, agoodmatch.org, where you can sign up to be tested to see if you are a match and learn more about Bierbaum’s story.
The site also includes information on what is involved in being a living kidney donor, as well as myths, facts and statistics.
Bierbaum received her first kidney transplant in 1986. Her sister, Sandy Ging Kohfeld, who was a perfect match, was the donor. The Missourian ran a feature story about their experience in December 2006 on the 20th anniversary.
In 1986, Bierbaum was told she could expect her new kidney to last 15 to 18 years. It has been more than 32, but now the transplanted kidney is beginning to fail.
Bierbaum did as much as she could to extend the life of her donated kidney, said Strake. She followed a strict diet and took care to avoid germs and illness — even going so far as to retire from her job as a first-grade teacher at Labadie Elementary. That likely contributed to her being able to go more than a decade beyond when doctors expected her to go without needing a new transplant.
“She got the mindset that this kidney was going to last forever,” remarked Strake, who was a year old when she had her first transplant.
Now as Bierbaum prepares to go on dialysis while she waits and hopes to find another perfect match, Strake wants to do what he can to speed up the time line, and help all people in need of an organ donation in the process.
“My mom adopted me at 2 days old and raised me as a single mother for more than a decade,” he says in a video on Match.Mom. “Her decisions saved my life and it is my ultimate hope to now save hers. Beyond what she has done for me, as a loved and devoted teacher of 35 years, to extend her life would be to extend her impact on the world around her.
“When we found out her kidney was failing a couple of months ago I knew I had to do everything in my power to help her. I hope to find someone out there who is willing to courageously donate the gift of life so that my mom can continue hers.”
Teams Up With St. Louis Blues
Strake used his connections at Enterprise Center, where one of the two Byrd & Barrel restaurants is located, to get extra publicity for his Match.Mom campaign during Monday’s home game against the Colorado Avalanche. During the first period, Strake was interviewed by Chris Kerber on KMOX radio, sharing his mom’s story, talking about their relationship, all she has done for him and why he feels so strongly about helping her now.
Information about Match.Mom and National Donate Life Month also was included in the Blues’ “Gameday Guide” for people with tickets to the game.
During the game, video screens featured the Match.Mom link and encouraged people to head to the Byrd & Barrel location in Enterprise Center to sign up to be tested.
Win Chicken for Life
To encourage more people to sign up to be tested, Strake and his business partners are holding a Gift for Life campaign giveaway, where everyone who signs up to be tested as a kidney donor match for Bierbaum will be entered in a drawing to win free Byrd & Barrel chicken for life.
To sign up to be tested, people can go to Match.Mom, click on “I Want to Help” and input your contact information. Or go to any Byrd & Barrel or Tamm Avenue Bar location to provide your contact information.
Strake has two goals with this campaign — first, to save his mom’s life by finding her a matching donor; and second, to help others in need of an organ donation.
His plan is to pass along the website to another son or daughter wanting to help a parent the same way.
“The long-term goal of this is to bring more awareness of organ transplant and living donors,” said Strake. “We want to get more eyes on my mom’s story, but overall get people thinking about organ donation.”