Todd Krampitz's message to the world is simple: He needs a liver to save his life. But the methods he is using to deliver his plea are unique, employing all the characteristics of a multimedia advertising blitz, including billboards, a Web site, a toll-free number and media interviews.
The two billboards, acquired at a large discount, along one of Houston's busiest freeways each announce "I Need A Liver Please Help Save My Life!" The Web site offers Krampitz's story and a flier to print out and post.
Krampitz, 32, was diagnosed in May with liver cancer and by July his doctors said only a transplant would save his life. He is hoping for a directed donation, meaning a family would ask that their loved one's harvested liver go to Krampitz.
"Unfortunately, tragedies happen every day," the Web site says. "If you hear of anyone that is in a situation where they could be a donor, they or their family can request that the liver be designated to Todd Krampitz."
The liver is the second most commonly transplanted major organ, after the kidney, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, which coordinates the nation's organ transplant system. As of July 30, there were 17,471 people nationwide waiting for a liver transplant, with 1,155 of them from Texas.
Krampitz's sister came up with the idea for the billboards, but his wife was hesitant at first, worried about perceptions that her husband is unfairly trying to get a liver ahead of others. But she believes he should be at the top of the list because the cancer could endanger the rest of his body.
The family bought space on two billboards along one of Houston's busiest freeways. They feature a photo of Todd, his plea, a Web site address and toll-free number, 1-888-How-U-Can.
"We are going to take as much action as we can to make things happen for Todd to survive," said Julie Krampitz, who married her high school sweetheart in March.
While it's not uncommon for people to buy billboards or build Web sites to advertise themselves for work, Krampitz's situation is unique because it is so personal and involves a life or death situation, said David Jones, vice president of strategy and planning for Energy Creative Partners, a Los Angeles-based advertising agency.
However, the United Network for Organ Sharing believes public pleas for directed donations run the risk of bypassing the established allocation system, said Dr. Mark Fox, chairman of the organization's ethics committee.
There are different criteria for different organs that regulate transplants. With livers, the sickest patients are at the top of the list.
"Those criteria are explicit and they are clinically based," said Fox, with the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine in Tulsa. "Not having a level playing field is the concern that many of us have about this phenomenon of public solicitation."
Krampitz's family has been flooded with e-mails and telephone calls since the campaign started last month. Four potential donors didn't work out for medical or age reasons.
Krampitz, who grew up in Houston and operated a digital photography company until he became ill, remains optimistic, although he and his wife know time is running out.
"The tumor is so large it's like he has two footballs inside of him," said Julie Krampitz.
While the primary goal of the media blitz is to find a liver donor, Krampitz said he feels the family is also performing a public service.
"It's really getting the word out there that people need to let their loved ones know that they want to donate their organs."
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