Jon Lukacher | Staff Writer
Rutgers-Camden lost a beloved member of its student body on March 2. Aaron Bradley, 28, died of cardiac arrest at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center in Camden, according to best friend Jekia Latham. He was due to graduate in May with a degree in Social Work.
“Rutgers experienced a tremendous loss that will take a long time to recover from,” said Matt Paterno, a junior and neighbor of Bradley’s in the dorms. “.”
Latham, whom Bradley called “Kia,” saw him in the ICU around 12:20 p.m. on the 2nd.
“I saw him lying there,” Latham recalled. “I held his hand. I told him that I loved him and asked if he could fight through this one. And, he said he would try. I left him assuming I would see him on campus soon.”
She would see him again, but not on campus.
Hospital staff informed her that he had contracted MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus) Infections, an infection transmitted from person to person through direct contact, according to MedicineNet.com. Personnel said he needed to have open heart surgery to replace two heart valves and wanted to transport him to Cooper University Hospital.
On the way to see a Lourdes’ Cardiologist later in the day, Bradley went into cardiac arrest while being placed on a stretcher. Hospital staff was not able to revive Bradley, and he was put on a ventilator.
Latham was called at about 4:30 p.m. to go back to the hospital and say goodbye. Bradley did not make it through the night.
Latham and Bradley’s relationship had grown stronger since they first knew each other about two years ago. Both social work majors, they would sit near each other in class. They also lived across the hall from each other in the dorms, which began this past fall. Latham said they had dinner together on a frequent basis.
Bradley served as her protector, and she remembers the time she had some trouble with a roommate. Bradley told her he “…would listen for my footsteps every night to make sure I got into my apartment safely.”
Bradley was blind from birth, and had a rare genetic disease called Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis, according to a Rutgers Focus article. He grew up in West Philadelphia and moved to Moorestown, New Jersey, in 2004. He would enroll in Burlington County College and eventually transfer to Rutgers-Camden in the Spring of 2010.
Rich Lorenzo, a junior, was one of Bradley’s better friends. He said Bradley would have a few trips to the hospital every year. Lorenzo said his health had been declining. His kidneys had completely failed in the beginning of this year, and he was using dialysis treatment.
Even if he was sick in the hospital, Bradley, who loved to sing, never refused an opportunity to be part of an activity at Rutgers-Camden, according to Mary Beth Daisey, Dean of Students. She said he was active in the residence halls, on the Disability Advisory Council, and as a peer mentor.
The Monday following his death, an open meeting was held for students to discuss Bradley. Daisey recalled the testimony of one student.
“One of the students shared that when he (Bradley) was in the hospital, he left to come sing at the rally on the day of the Board of Governors meeting,” she explained, talking about the February 15th meeting. “He was back in the hospital the next day.”
Daisey discussed Bradley’s amazing attitude and his unique perspective on life.
“I wish I could’ve bottled his attitude and positive outlook on life,” she said. “I think it (his attitude) was just who he was. He was a positive person, and you can be sorry about it (personal suffering) and ‘say woe is me,’ or you can get things done and contribute to society. He was in the category of the latter.”
Paterno discussed the type of person Bradley was, saying, “For me, I just always saw him as someone who was able to overcome the stigmas that surround people who are blind. He never portrayed himself as a victim.”
Bradley could always be seen on campus with Licorice walking through the Quad or the campus center. He would chat with Campus Corner Manager Simone Owens, a senior. Her face lit up when she discussed him.
“How do you frown when you see Aaron,” she asked rhetorically. “He was always so happy, considering how many (health issues) he had going on, and that makes everybody happy.”
Rutgers-Camden will be hosting a planning meeting to brainstorm ways to honor Bradley. Ideas have already been discussed, like raising money for a bench or a statue of a dog. The meeting will be held twice on Tuesday, March 20, 12:30 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the Campus Center Conference Rooms South BC. Those who wish to attend only have to come to one meeting.
Brandon Quiles, a sophomore, met Bradley through the Peer Mentoring Program, and they became friends. He hopes people learn from Bradley’s life.
“I hope everyone could take a little something from him when he was here, whether it was his humor or his ambition, and kind of channel that themselves,” Quiles said. “There weren’t that many people as hardworking, I guess, as passionate about school, and just life in general, as he was.”
It seems like people already have.