‘Twas like any other first day of the first semester of the academic year at Malcolm X Community College. They called them Community Colleges back in those days. They were places where the needfulness of a good education found one. But truth beknown, for a meager tuition that education was superior. Location was its only challenge.
Bordered by less than perfect neighborhoods then Malcolm X College is situated on the southwest side of Chicago.
In a predominantly African American community college on the first day of Letha Robinson’s new Nephrology Technology homeroom class, sat a very white small guy named Grant Peters. Aside from a few staff and faculty Grant was the only white man outside Cook County Medical Center on the opposite side of the Douglas Expressway.
Grant Peters may have presented as a small framed white male that looked far too frail to be in a westside Chicago neighborhood.
But his self-assured attitude and look of confidence soon dominated the small class. Grant wore an angry determined look that silently said, “leave me alone because I already know more than you” or “please come be my friend cause I’m alone and brave”. I embraced the later and that was an excellent choice.
As our friendship grew we learnt a lot about each other.
Grant was from a small suburb of Pittsburgh, I grew up on Chicago’s southside. Comfortable with my pedigree I was always amazed with how Grant managed to gain respect outside of that nurturing bubble of doting older parents left behind in Pittsburgh. I remembered thinking that was why he was so brave. His parents were fearless enough to love their only child with open arms.
Our class soon came to understand that Grant Peters was the finest reasons of why we were there. His challenge to us was to become just as smart about his disease to become its greatest advocates… like him.
His challenges were never outwardly visible.
To the contrary, he rarely talked of his three times weekly dialysis, or the fact that for the first time in his life strangers not his nurse mom, were administering to his needs as an outpatient at Northwestern Memorial satellite dialysis unit.
In those days there were few schools equipped to teach that discipline and the science of renal dialysis was new. But my buddy managed to keep his 4-point average and complete the curriculum to move on to study first at University of Illinois Chicago Campus and later return to Pittsburgh to complete his undergraduate and become part of a research team.
Years, life, and different states separated us for a time.
But one day during one of our heated phone discussions about End Stage Renal Disease Grant expressed the need to challenge the current treatment choices – or lack of. You see he acquired a new kidney – a successful transplant that added quality to his life. Grant felt that choice should be part of treatment offerings for all End Stage Patients. He felt it was their right to have the choice of adjusting daily routines around machines or have the chance of an improved quality of life with transplantation. So I dared him to do something about this idea and he did.
First he composed An Argument for the Clinical and Economical Efficacy, on the Utilization of Kidney Transplantation Over Long-term Dialysis in ESRD (End Stage Renal Disease) , framed as a proposition.
On April 30, 2015, we began work on his idea of attending a John Hopkins post graduate program. On May 22, 2015 we completed the edits and submitted to Johns Hopkins University Advanced Academic Master’s Program in Biotechnology Enterprise and Entrepreneurship.
I don’t think I could be prouder then in that moment when he called to tell me was accepted. But then moments of silly pride took me again in the years that followed when he called to complain that he set the grade curve yet again.
He thought it awful that his fellow students were not committed enough.
You see this was the point of his life. This was the legacy gifted to him from parents, family and friends, the drive to improve life…. never give up on making things better.
Beneath the gruff exterior of an unyielding man challenged in telling his truths in soothing language, beat the heart of a warrior. He didn’t rise at dawn to advantage a wonderful physique. He rose to make brain muscles in order to know how to make his life and others’ lives better.
The Grant Peters that I knew was brave, strong, sometimes funny, and a loyal friend. Most of all he was the smartest man I will ever know.
Grant passed today, January 24, 2018. Didn’t want to cry today, but the tears come anyways.