Transplant recipient and cancer survivor, STHM student goes for Guinness record
Benjamin Baker is hoping to slide into the Guinness Book of World Records – again.
A sophomore at Temple University’s School of Tourism and Hospitality Management (STHM), Baker will attempt to make the Guinness Book of World Records for the most distance covered on a Slip ‘N Slide within one hour.
Baker and a team of students from Messiah College, known as the Night Razors, will try to break the current record of 26 miles on Saturday, May 2, at Camp Conquest, in Denver, Pa. The group already owns the Guinness Record for most distance traveled on a Razor Scooter in a span of 24 hours, having covered 344 miles.
Their Slip ‘N Slide record attempt will support a life-saving cause. All proceeds will benefit The Living Legacy Foundation of Maryland, to which Baker has a personal link.
“I have a story a lot of people don’t,” said Baker, 20, a liver transplant recipient and cancer survivor.
A Lancaster, Pa., native, Baker was a third-grade student who was to have his tonsils extracted. He underwent a routine blood test that yielded abnormal results. Doctors monitored issues in Baker’s liver and spleen for years, prescribing him “22 pills a day,” he said.
In May 2013, then in high school, Baker suffered liver failure. Due to his young age and the severity of his organ failure, Baker was rushed to the top of a donor list that usually requires a three-year wait. With the help of the Living Legacy Foundation, which helped identify a donor match, Baker underwent a transplant procedure only two months after his diagnosis.
Following a 13-hour, complication-free surgery at Johns Hopkins University Hospital, Baker was told he was the second-fastest patient ever to be discharged following a transplant surgery.
“I had a clean bill of health until the cancer came,” Baker said.
In May 2014, Baker – then a student at Messiah – experienced stomach pains. Doctors determined, after a colonoscopy and blood tests, that Baker had PTLD, or posttransplant lymphoproliferative disease. According to Baker, it’s a type of cancer that’s specific to solid organ transplant recipients and presents itself in the body’s B-cells.
“Only four physicians have ever studied it, and one was my doctor at Johns Hopkins,” Baker said. “They said it stemmed from the anti-rejection medicine I was taking after the transplant. Doctors told me that 1 percent of transplant patients get (PTLD), and .01 percent of average people get it.”
Injection treatments have kept the cancer in check, said Baker, who is in remission. Reaching May 2016 without any complications would mean that he has beaten cancer.
“I have this invincible attitude, which can be good and bad,” said Baker, who is studying Hospitality Management at STHM. “I wear my heart on my sleeve because, when you’re me, you don’t have time to hold anything back. Life is too valuable to hold back. You come to me with an idea, I’m probably going to say, ‘Let’s get it going.’”
Baker first used his take-charge spirit at Messiah, where he found like-minded friends who had penchants for riding Razor Scooters after dark. Naturally, they arrived at their name, the Night Razors. Considering Baker’s background, the group concocted an idea to attempt a Guinness World Record attempt for the most distance traveled on a scooter in one day’s time.
As a result of their fundraising efforts, the Night Razors handed over a check for $6,900 to The Living Legacy Foundation. This time around, they’re aiming for $15,000.
“Event planning and event leadership are critical facets to our curriculum,” said Dr. Elizabeth Barber, STHM Associate Dean, “and it’s clear that Ben, through his charitable drives and record-breaking attempts, is getting hands-on experience in these venues. Ben’s story is truly inspiring, and I wish him luck as he and the Night Razors go for the Slip ‘N Slide record.”
Said Baker: “My friends and I are raising money and giving back, and that’s what we’re all about. I used to look at cancer in this morbid light, like, ‘Is this the end?’ And what if it was? I wanted to make sure I did something charitable and memorable. With the Slip ‘N Slide record, it’s the same thing.”
The Night Razors are seeking volunteers and donations for their Slip ‘N Slide record attempt. To sign up to help or support the cause, visit their website.