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Scholarship Honors Legacy of Surgical Technician

North Versailles Twp. man fondly recalled by family, colleagues

By Kristen Keleschenyi
The Tube City Almanac
July 07, 2022
Posted in: Announcements, North Versailles Twp. News

Lawrence Abdullah died of complications of COVID-19 in 2020. His family has established a scholarship at CCAC in his honor and will be holding a fundraiser this weekend. (Submitted photo)

The second annual Lawrence R. Abdullah Scholarship Fundraiser will take place in North Versailles Twp. this Saturday (July 9), two days after what would have been Lawrence Abdullah’s 42nd birthday.

This scholarship was set up to honor an individual who was “a beast about everything that goes on in the surgery room,” as his mother, Romodore, describes him.

In November 2020, Abdullah had earned his surgical tech specialist certificate from the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC). Weeks later, on Dec. 9, he passed away after being diagnosed with COVID-19. His immune system was weakened because of a kidney transplant he received a year prior.

Abdullah was one of the surgical technicians who sat in on the very first hand transplant done at UPMC Montefiore Hospital, but he didn’t immediately get into the medical field after he graduated from East Allegheny Junior-Senior High School in 1998.

Abdullah completed semesters at both Penn State Greater Allegheny and Youngstown State University. He was very involved at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church and worked as a camp counselor at the former YMCA in Wilmerding where he met his wife, Naomi York, with whom he had two daughters, Makaylah and Lauren.

When he made the move into the medical profession, he was first hired at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in the oncology department. Big L, as he was affectionately referred to by his co-workers because of his large personality was known for his warm smile and big bear hugs. He worked at UPMC Montefiore before transferring to Jefferson Hospital.

That is where Jared Gamble, operating room manager, got to know Lawrence Abdullah.

“He is one of the greatest guys I’ve known. He brought so much joy to the workplace,” recalls Gamble.

Gamble said “Big L” was mostly involved in orthopedic procedures assisting with both hip and knee replacements. He was in charge of getting the instruments ready before surgery, assisting the surgeon once the procedures began and then accounting for everything afterward.

“We still have his photo in the OR here,” said Gamble. “It’s like that Notre Dame sign, people touch it.”

Gamble says the Jefferson Hospital crew is like family and they look out for each other when something bad happens. They remain in touch with Big L’s mom and try to find ways to help. One of those ways is keeping Lawrence Abdullah’s memory alive through a scholarship created in his name.

Romodore said her family teamed up with CCAC to create the scholarship for others who might be pursuing a similar career.

Last year, the first-ever fundraiser was held at the Abdullah home in Crestas Terrace, and the event raised just over $4,000 through word of mouth and the support of family and friends. Two CCAC students were selected to receive $400 scholarships.

Kristina Zuccarelli, manager of Scholarships and Alumni Affairs for the CCAC Educational Foundation, said the family is looking to raise additional funds to make it an endowed (permanent) scholarship. Zuccarelli added it is a testament to how well Lawrence Abdullah was loved and appreciated that his family was able to do so well in their first year.

The second-annual fundraiser will take place on Saturday, July 9 from 2 to 6 p.m. at 2209 Crestas Ave., North Versailles. There will be food, games, an auction and time to share memories about Lawrence Abdullah. If you are not able to make the event there are other ways to donate.

You may send a check by mail to: Scholarships, CCAC Educational Foundation Byers Hall, Room 102, 808 Ridge Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA, 15212. Please include a note indicating Lawrence’s name so the gift may be properly designated or donate online at ccac.edu/foundation/giving.php and click donate.

Kristen Keleschenyi is a freelance writer in North Versailles Twp. and one of the hosts of the Kristen & Amber Show on Tube City Online Radio at 5 p.m. Saturdays, 9 p.m. Mondays and 4 p.m. Thursdays. She may be reached at kbishop25@hotmail.com.

Originally published July 07, 2022.

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