Spring 2014 Magazine - Immaculata University - page 20

I MMA C U L ATA MA G A Z I N E * S P R I N G 2 0 1 4
Kevin Baffa ’14 will be one of only four
Barth syndrome patients in the world to hold a
bachelor’s degree when he graduates in August.
With less than 200 known cases worldwide,
Barth syndrome is a genetic condition that affects
only boys and prevents the body from properly
converting nutrients into energy. This leads to
constant fatigue, as well as a weakened heart and
immune system, putting patients at risk of heart
failure, cardiac arrest and infection.
When Kevin started at Immaculata in 2008,
no one with the condition had yet been success-
ful in college. “It was assumed that we probably
couldn’t do it,” Kevin said. “Because nobody else
had been successful at getting through college
to that point, I hadn’t thought it to be a viable
He took a semester off after graduating from
high school to recover from surgery. “Most of my
friends had gone away to school, and I just hadn’t
put much thought into what it was I actually
wanted to do with my life,” Kevin said. “Sitting
at home, though, I came to the conclusion that
it was at least worth trying, even if I had to go at
a slower pace to make it feasible. That semester
off also made me realize that I didn’t want to just
sit by and let my condition dictate how my life
would play out. I wanted to make something of
myself, even if I wasn’t sure what that was at the
Kevin and his mother, Rosemary, stopped
in at an Immaculata open house on a whim. “A
couple weeks later, he said to me, ‘I’d like to
do this,’” Rosemary said. So the Baffas made it
“He’s my son. I would do anything for him,”
she said simply. “So it’s a joint effort, to get him
through. And he hasn’t done it the easy way, and
he hasn’t done it the traditional way. But he’s
definitely done it his way.”
Kevin has found fatigue to be the biggest
challenge as he has pursued his degree in Com-
munication. But it has never been an insur-
mountable challenge for him. He takes naps in
the afternoons, gets adequate nutrition, and takes
his medicine. Rosemary drops him off right at
the door of the buildings where his classes are
held, and he uses elevators when he can. It can
be hard if he has to walk down a long hallway.
“Picture yourself being 25 years old, which he is,
and feeling like you’re 80,” Rosemary said. But,
she added, “he very rarely complains.”
“I try not to have more than two classes a day,
and if possible get one free day a week,” Kevin
said. He manages his schedule carefully, allowing
time for rest. He has taken on an internship this
semester, along with his classes. And he belongs
to one honor society and is eligible for another one.
“I’m surprised I’ve done as well as I have,” he
said. At the beginning, he felt as if it would take
forever to finish his degree, but, “I was able to
keep a good mind about it,” he said. “You can’t
let Barth syndrome define you. It is a part of you,
and you have to let people know about it, but it
can’t be all that you are.”
“There are very few people on this campus
who know what he has truly accomplished,”
Rosemary said. “He’s very quiet and doesn’t make
it known.” Last year, Rosemary said, he got the
Kevin Baffa’s Small Group Communications class read
and then went bowling with funds provided by a grant from
Pathways. Pictured with Baffa is Colonel John Church, assistant
professor of Communication.
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