Texas Tech University

In Son's Memory, Mother Contributing to Fight Against Coronavirus

Glenys Young

May 8, 2020

Eyad Karkoutly

Donations to the West Texas 3D COVID-19 Relief Consortium help protect health care workers.

Susan Karkoutly remembers her son, Eyad, as a cheerful man who loved music, loved people and, above all, loved helping others.

In 2012, he was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), a rare blood cancer. After the only treatment available stopped working, this man who so loved to help others was beyond any help others could provide. He died in 2014 at the age of 37.

Susan Karkoutly was nearly crushed by her son's death, but two goals burned inside her, keeping her going day after day. The first was a desire to keep his memory alive. The second was a determination to follow his example of helping others so that, some day, no more mothers would have to lose their children to this disease.

To that end, she founded the Eyad Karkoutly Lymphoma Leukemia Research Foundation to raise money for research that could one day bring about the end of the terrible disease that claimed her son's life.

"From the very beginning of his diagnosis, Eyad never stopped fighting or let his fear overcome his kindness," Karkoutly remembers. "His ongoing faith, generosity and positive spirit are what gave him strength and continue to give us strength every day. I try my best to relay his positive energy and strength in the foundation's efforts, and in my daily life."

In the last four years, the Karkoutly Foundation has donated $85,000 to CLL research, thanks to its primary fundraising event, Fly for the Cure. The annual kite-flying festival features food trucks and family activities, bringing together the community for an enjoyable experience that also helps to benefit those in need.

This year, however, the foundation couldn't host its event. It couldn't bring the community together because of the threat of the coronavirus.

Watching her friends and neighbors deal with social distancing, isolation and the various stressors of living under such conditions, and watching her husband, cardiologist Dr. Ayman Karkoutly, deal with the changes in the medical field as a result of COVID-19, Susan Karkoutly realized she wanted the foundation to give back to the community, supporting those who supported it.

After learning about the West Texas 3D COVID-19 Relief Consortium, a collaborative group using innovative methods to produce personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and ventilator components for hospitals and health care systems throughout West Texas, Karkoutly decided that was the best use of the foundation's money to help the community.

The Karkoutly Foundation donated $2,000 to the consortium, an amount consortium leader Simon Williams says would cover the costs of 200 face shields, 20 intubation chambers or three emergency ventilators.

"The consortium is dedicated to protecting health care workers throughout West Texas as they deal with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic," said Williams, a professor of medical education and cell biology & biochemistry and associate dean for academic affairs in the School of Medicine at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC). "Donations to our consortium can help slow the spread of the pandemic and ensure that our health care workers remain healthy and continue to look after all of us."

Because the consortium includes several state entities – including various departments at Texas Tech University and TTUHSC, the University of Texas-Permian Basin and Odessa College – in addition to local businesses, concerned citizens and aviators, some people may incorrectly assume that the consortium is state funded. At this time, it's almost entirely dependent upon volunteers and donors.

That's why donations like that from the Karkoutly Foundation are so important: They allow the continuation of the consortium's activities to provide PPE to health care workers on the front lines of the coronavirus fight.

"I just wanted to do something for the community during the coronavirus crisis, and I thought this was a good way," Karkoutly said.

"I just want to thank the heroic health care workers in Lubbock for helping others during this crisis. God bless them and protect them and keep them healthy."