An Open Letter: How Pi Kapp Changed My Life

An Open Letter- How Pi Kapp Changed My LifeThe following is an open letter from Randy Smith, an alumnus of the Beta Omicron Chapter of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity at Northwestern State University.

One year after his son underwent an extensive surgery, he asked to share his thoughts with the countless people who taught his family an important lesson about the bonds of brotherhood.

“My name is Randy Smith. I’m 27 years old and live in Alexandria, Louisiana and am married to Rachael Tingle Smith, an alumna of the Alpha Zeta Chapter of Sigma Sigma Sigma Sorority. We have a son, Jacob, who is now 2 years old. I want to share with you exactly what true brotherhood can accomplish and overcome.  When Jacob was about six months old, he was diagnosed with craniosynostosis, which is a deformation of the skull that causes the suture lines to close faster than they should. This typically leaves the child with a ridge down the front or back of the head.  Naturally, this brought immediate worry and we took to the internet to try to find out more.  What we saw was nothing short of sickening.  If left untreated Jacob could suffer deterioration of the skull and deformation of the brain.  The condition is treatable but involved taking Jacob to Dallas, Texas to undergo an extensive surgery to remove his skull and completely reconstruct it.

Having all of this thrown into my lap at once was extremely stressful and brought me to a really dark place.  You always hear the expression “you never know what love is until you have a child,” but you never really understand it.  I finally knew what this meant after Jacob was born.  I also discovered an intense fear that I never knew existed, leaving my wife and I feeling painfully alone.  Aside from the fear of our baby undergoing this intense surgery, we knew the hospital bills could reach astronomical numbers.  The best doctor for this procedure was in Dallas, meaning it would not be covered by our insurance. Costs could reach well over $40,000 for surgery fees and hospital bills.  Day after day it seemed all we received was bad news on top of more bad news.

randy and jacobWhen you join a fraternity, most people tend to think of it as an activity that spans four or five years until you leave it behind after graduation. That wasn’t the case for me. I have always tried to do my part to help my chapter as an alumnus, but I never imagined what Pi Kappa Phi would do for me.  It often seems to take great incentive or motivation to persuade a group of college men to do something, but not this time.  My brothers decided to throw several fundraisers for my son’s surgery.  All of this was done in secret without ever saying a word to me or my wife (because they knew I wouldn’t hear of it).  Before I knew it, they held a benefit car wash for Jacob, a “chunk your change” event in front of the NSU Student Union, an article in the local newspaper, and rallied several sororities to join the effort. Brothers from across Louisiana and Texas flooded my Facebook account, home mailbox, email, and phone with messages of encouragement. The money raised was not as nearly as important to me as was the selfless thought.  Suddenly, I no longer felt alone in this journey.

Jacob’s surgery came on November 2, 2011, the worst day of my life.  As my precious child was hooked up to machines and undergoing an unimaginable surgery, I was constantly receiving texts, emails and phone calls of support from the actives and alumni of Beta Omicron Chapter. From this, I drew needed strength from my brothers.  The total selflessness and commitment to helping a brother and his family brought me to tears. At the chapter’s Founders’s Day banquet in 2011, I brought my wife and Jacob to express how the gesture impacted my life.  It didn’t matter if they had raised $100 or $100,000. The fact that they were there for me, and more importantly, my son is something I’ll never forget. It also reminds me of what initially drew me to the Fraternity — lifelong brotherhood.  We share so many experiences: love, laughter, arguments, fights and tears. It’s all through an unbreakable bond.  When Jacob is older, I will make sure he knows what Pi Kappa Phi has done for him.  It brought his father and mother together and helped lift them up through one of the darkest moments of their lives.

Jacob is growing just like any typical two year old. He’ll go back to the specialist when he’s five for monitoring of his skull to make sure it won’t require another surgery. However, we’re in for another emotional journey. Our daughter Maci was also diagnosed with craniosynostosis, so she will require the same surgery next July when she is about 11 months old. We are going into this familiar experience reassured by your outpouring of prayers and words of encouragement.”

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