After 35 years on the road as a video technician for the CBS network covering major sporting events including the Super Bowl, the Olympics, SEC football, the Masters Golf Tournament, and the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament, Brooklyn native Robert Duffy was living a very active and busy life that kept him on the road about 240 days a year. At 60 years of age, his diabetes was under control, and he otherwise seemed healthy as he led a life of irregular hours, extended travel and living out of hotel rooms.
All that changed in 2011, when he became ill while covering a golf tournament in San Diego. He went to the hospital, and during his 10-day stay, Duffy was diagnosed with both liver and kidney disease. He was told he needed to have a confirmed appointment with a transplant center before he could be released from the hospital. Fortunately for Duffy, he had recently moved to Amelia Island, Fla., just a few miles down the road from Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, the only transplant center in the Jacksonville / northeast Florida area.
“I was told I needed both a liver and kidney transplant, and was extremely lucky to end up at Mayo Clinic, as they were the only transplant center willing to list me because of my hepatitis-C, which I contracted in my teens but has been dormant for the past 40 years,” says Duffy. “The fact that I had recently moved to the Jacksonville area, where a top transplant center happened to be located, was a true blessing in my case.”
Duffy was put on the transplant list in March 2012 and received both organs from a deceased donor on Feb. 14, 2013, which happened to be Valentine’s Day and the birthday of his beloved dog, Bella. One year later, he is doing well and has decided to devote his life to helping others.
“I have a new outlook on life after going through this experience,” he says. “Your health is your wealth, and nothing else really matters if you aren’t healthy and happy. I’ve decided to spend my time giving back to others in need, like my donor has done for me.”
Since Duffy lost his father at the age of 12 and understands the need for a male mentor at that impressionable age, he is now involved in several community activities relating to children in the Amelia Island area.
“I know what it felt like losing my dad at a young age, and figured maybe I can help fill that void in some small way for other kids in the same situation,” he says.
Duffy participates in the Boys and Girls Club in Amelia Island, an organization that helps young people to reach their full potential as productive, caring and responsible citizens. He is mentoring young students and helping them with their homework.
He also got involved in a program called “Instruments Zoo,” sponsored by the Jacksonville Symphony Guild, that brings musical instruments into the public schools. This program is targeted to fifth grade students and provides an opportunity for them to get hands-on experience trying out an instrument that they might want to eventually pursue and learn how to play.
His latest community involvement effort is with “Take Stock in Children,” a government program targeted to low-income children of high school age. Duffy is mentoring a high school student during his entire four years of study, with the goal of helping him work hard, stay out of trouble, graduate from high school and ultimately receive a fully paid college education through the program.
“Giving back to the community, especially children, is important to me at this stage of my life,” says Duffy. “I’d love to go back to my job at CBS. They are like extended family and have been very good to me. But I realize that I probably couldn’t handle the rigors of that job anymore, with all the travel, so I’m focusing now on staying healthy and helping others in need. That’s the best choice for me right now.”
Duffy is grateful for his second chance at life thanks to his experience at Mayo Clinic in Florida. “From day one everyone involved in my care at Mayo Clinic has been the best and treated me with kindness and respect,” says Duffy. “My life was in their hands, and now that I have been given a second chance it is my turn to pay it forward.”