A family health crisis never comes at a good time, but there could
hardly have been a worse time for David W. Crozier and his wife,
Helene Kneier Crozier.
The Croziers had invested their savings in a 75-year-old Windsor-based
business, Pyrometer Instrument Company, which manufactures precision
temperature measurement instruments. The firm was struggling. "It was
basically bankrupt," says David Crozier.
A year after the purchase, in September, 2004, Crozier was in the
process of moving the eight-person operation from Northvale, in North
Jersey, to Windsor Industrial Park, closer to his Yardley home, when
the terrible news came. One of their five children had been born with
spina bifida, a malformation of the spinal cord, and now she had an
additional problem; her kidneys were failing. Two days after
Christmas, when the surgeons at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
(CHOP) tried to get 14-year-old Allison ready for dialysis, they
discovered that dialysis would not work for her. "They came out of the
operating room and said we had 90 days to find a kidney," says
Kidneys are in short supply. In New Jersey, for instance, more than
2,500 people are on the waiting list.
So Crozier, then age 46, stepped forward to be the donor, and the
transplant took place in February, 2005. For the next three months he
had to stay home, at first barely able to move and then not able to
drive. "The employees kept the business going; they stepped up and
helped us out," says Crozier. "We have a great workforce."
Crozier has an up-beat, can-do attitude as he tells how the family
made an adventure out of countless trips from Yardley to the hospital
in Philadelphia. And about how his daughter refuses to get a
handicapped sticker for the family car, choosing to walk rather than
be considered disabled. And about how the recovery was even more
stressful for the family than anyone expected.
Transferring his management skills – he knows how to nudge a project
across a bureaucratic minefield – Crozier had checked and rechecked to
be certain everything happened on schedule.
Similarly, his personal optimism carried over to his work life.
Whiners are not welcome at Pyrometer, and Crozier weeded out the
naysayers with the move from Bergen County. "Mercer County is much
more conducive to doing business," says Crozier. "In my opinion it has
a more reasonable workforce. Here, we are not competing with New York
prices and New York attitudes. Some of the people moved seamlessly,
and some of the people we were forced to replace – but some we didn’t
encourage to move."
The Crozier family is "quite amazing," says Bernard Kaplan, director
of nephrology at CHOP. "Allison is an extremely brave and really
strong young person, with a very embracing, supportive family – the
father, the mother, the siblings, and Mrs. Crozier’s parents. The
Croziers were completely removed from their roots, and not only did
they have to deal with their new business, but Mr. Crozier would have
to take off from work. Not for one moment was there any hesitation or
thought that he wouldn’t do this. He was absolutely determined."
"I think God trusted us with Allison," says Crozier, who faithfully
attends St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church in Yardley. "I won’t say
there haven’t been times I questioned my faith, but there have not
been any hard decisions. The decisions just came naturally."
"And we have met good people, like Dr. Kaplan and the others at
Children’s, who have made it very easy."
To balance business and surgery was a parent’s nightmare. Preparing
for any surgery requires extensive testing, and in this case – because
the Croziers wanted both parents to be donor ready – each test had to
be done on the daughter, the father, and the mother. Preparation for
transplant surgery is particularly exacting. "It is the only medical
procedure where the doctors are making you worse," says Crozier.
The trio ran the gauntlet of a dizzying number of blood tests, urine
tests, and even psychological tests, so that social workers and
psychologists could probe their mental readiness. To leave absolutely
no chance for zero-hour surprises, each of the blood and urine tests
had to be repeated three times, including the logistically onerous
creatinine measurement that requires collecting every drop of urine
over a 24-hour period.
The schedule allowed no room for mistakes. "We knew when the
deliverable had to be," says Crozier. "Yet we were supposed to wait
until the insurance approved each step. We decided not to wait. We
went ahead with the timetable of what needed to occur when." Crozier
sat down with Kaplan to draw up the plan.
Kaplan is a graduate of medical school in Johannesburg, South Africa,
where his Lithuanian-born parents owned a retail store. Working at
McGill in Montreal in 1974, Kaplan had supervised the first case in
which pediatricians managed to beat the clock by transplanting a
kidney before the patient had to have dialysis. He started CHOP’s
kidney transplant center in 1992. Now the center does from 15 to 30
transplants a year, sourcing more than half of the kidneys from
friends and family members, the rest from deceased people.
"Dr. Kaplan has done phenomenal things," says Crozier. "He saved
Allison’s life. He treated her like she was his own granddaughter. He
was unbending in making sure she had the best care possible."
"Mr. Crozier called and E-mailed me to make sure things moved as
quickly as possible," says Kaplan, who worked with coordinators Joann
Palmer and Sonya Lopez on the arrangements for the simultaneous
operations on father and daughter. "He was respectful – but insistent
– a real gentleman."
Despite the planning there were mishaps. Crozier sometimes had to
attend meetings carrying a five-quart bottle of bodily fluids for his
creatinine test. He inadvertently drank a glass of wine the night
before the first of three blood tests, not realizing that imbibing
would seriously skew the test. Although subsequent blood tests came
out well, his initial error might have delayed the surgery. (In
retrospect Crozier thinks a donor support group – perhaps an online
one – could have helped his learning curve.)
Meanwhile Crozier tried to tend his business. On his wife’s side, the
Kneiers had founded a chemical company, ChemSafe, in Cleveland. On his
side, his grandfather had been vice president of engineering at
General Motors, and his father was a postal inspector. (The families
did not bankroll the purchase of Pyrometer. "My parents and
grandparents were very clear their job was to get us raised right,"
says Crozier. "They wanted their children to find their own success.")
The Crozier family can trace its roots to the French Canadian part of
Canada. Crozier’s great grandfather, a sea captain, went down with his
ship on the Great Lakes. "My grandfather, also a sea captain, heard
his father had drowned while talking with the Coast Guard on the
radio, and that motivated him to go back to Case Western Reserve to be
an engineer," says Crozier.
Crozier attended the University of Cincinnati on a baseball
scholarship, graduating in 1981. A mechanical engineer, he worked in
the instrumentation field. The family moved to Yardley when Crozier
ran Teledyne’s instrument division. Then for six years he was CEO of a
Switzerland-based manufacturer of color control systems.
But he wanted to captain his own ship. In baseball, he had been a
catcher, because he likes to call the shots. He put out the word that
he was looking to buy a company and Cherry Hill-based investment
bankers Everingham and Kerr mailed him information on Pyrometer.
Founded in 1928, Pyrometer had precision temperature measurement
technology that spans the gap between what would be considered to be
the rust belt and the very latest discoveries. It is the only domestic
manufacturer of certain kinds of pyrometers, thermometers that measure
high temperatures. Steel companies are its clients, but its products
also go into cleanrooms in hard drive manufacturers such as Seagate
Technologies in Pittsburgh.
In 1988 the company received a photonics award for an infrared
thermometer that could measure "emissivity," the amount of reflection.
"Our ability to measure and automatically adjust for emissivity allows
our equipment to measure temperature more accurately than any other
firm," says Crozier.
The latest device, called Pyrofiber, introduced just before Crozier
bought the company, allows emissivity and temperature measurement on
highly reflective or polished materials. This is important for
scientific applications, semiconductor manufacturing, and specialty
The purchase of Pyrometer turned out to be a legal nightmare, because
the owner also had two other companies that were inextricably
intertwined. One company leased the building, for instance, and
another company leased the vehicle. "Finally my father-in-law sat down
with me and said, "Why don’t we just take the whole thing."
So in March, 2003, Crozier and his wife, became the proud owners of
the three companies, with Makke LLC as the umbrella name that
incorporates the first initials of their five children. The oldest,
Katelyn, will start Case Western Reserve this fall. Allison’s twin
brother, Matt, is a basketball star at Conwell Egan in Fairless Hills.
Twins Kevin and Emily are eight years old.
At the time of the purchase, Pyrometer engineers had not yet made a
prototype of the $20,000 Pyrofiber device. Crozier put a marketing
plan in place, targeted R&D facilities, and focused on customer
service. The other two companies were also floundering: Automated
Measurement & Control Corp. and American Teratec Inc. The same eight
employees serve all three firms.
Crozier and his wife run the companies, but they needed operations
managers and some replacement personnel. "Each departing employee was
hard to replace," says Crozier, in the perennial plaint of the
entrepreneur. "One hole in a small company is huge." Judd Parrish
handles the operations of Pyrometer, and Crozier solved the leadership
problem at the other two firms by recruiting Jeff Wootten from the
United Kingdom. "One of the service guys knew him, and that he wanted
to move to America. Now that company does four times the business,"
Crozier looked for cost effective Class C space, and he chose Windsor
Industrial Park over Princeton Service Center or Research Park, in
part because it had better growth opportunities. "If we need to
expand, the room is here. It is also closer to where the other workers
live." Bill Barish of Commercial Property Network found the space, and
Yardville National Bank provided the funding. The accountant is Bruce
Ludlow of Klatzkin & Company.
Crozier had told all the workers that the company would be moving
within three years. But when he was donating his kidney, everyone was
still two hours away in Northvale. And they were on their own from the
second week of February, 2005, through the first of May.
Last February Crozier made the move, exactly one year after the
transplant. All the companies are doing well. "Now they are profitable
as a group," says Crozier.
The memory of the operation itself is fading. "The night before," says
Crozier, "Allison came into my room and said, `If you don’t want to do
this I’ll understand.’ That was the only time I thought about it."
Crozier had gone through the required counseling before he went under
the knife. Though he says his decision was easy, not everyone feels
that way. "We don’t want potential donors to feel guilty if they don’t
donate a kidney," says Kaplan. "But we tell them we would never take a
kidney if we have any concern about the future health of that person."
Crozier, who likes to make self deprecating jokes, explains why it was
he, rather than his wife, who donated. "I thought, if my wife does it,
then I get to take care of my wife who will be sick, as well as taking
care of all the children. So the decision was easy. Then I tried to
get the surgeons to fix some of the problems of aging while they were
in there, to do liposuction, but they didn’t enjoy that humor."
To remove his right kidney required a long, conventional incision that
would take three months to heal. Shortly after the operation, when his
wife was at Allison’s bedside, and his wife’s parents had flown in
from Cleveland to take care of the rest of the family, his
mother-in-law passed out. It was discovered that she had lung cancer
and needed to go home immediately. "So I had to take care of the kids
anyway," says Crozier, noting the irony. His discharge date was moved
up and he went home three days after the surgery.
Everybody pitched in, says Crozier, downplaying the difficulties but
admitting, "I could barely move." The children got themselves to
school and the neighbors brought dinners. While Crozier was
recuperating he liked watching inspirational movies such as the 1993
"Rudy," about the Notre Dame football player who gave his whole heart
to the team.
Allison’s reaction to one of the drugs sent her back to the hospital
twice. "Her whole body was like one open wound, with white ulcer-type
sores everywhere. It was very scary for us. She and her mother were
really quite amazing; she dealt with everything really well," says
Crozier. For one of Allison’s return trips her mother was away, in
Cleveland, with her own mother.
"The amazing thing was how Allison changed dramatically after the
transplant," says her doctor, Kaplan. Before, Allison swam and played
golf, participated in Special Olympics and had a good group of friends
at Pennsbury. "But afterward she became so much happier and more
comfortable with everybody. She just felt better. she even began to
smile when I made jokes. Before the transplant she said she didn’t
really like my sense of humor."
Kaplan marvels at what the Crozier family endured. "They have been
absolutely amazing in their willingness to take part in this," he
says, "and wanting to let us talk about it is wonderful too."
Two medical students from the University of Pennsylvania were assigned
to follow Allison for several years, going to every doctor appointment
with her. "The idea is for the patient to teach the students how to be
doctors. The students absolutely adore the family and Allison and are
learning a great deal from them," says Kaplan.
"Allison felt like it was somebody else going through it with her,"
says Crozier. "`When you are a doctor,’ she would say, `I hope you
remember to tell this.’ Or, `They didn’t tell me it would hurt like
The family also agreed to take part in a National Institutes of Health
study for a protocol for immunosupression. She is also among the first
to use a new anti-rejection drug, and she is also participating in a
study on the effects of the transplant on her skeleton.
The experience encouraged the oldest of the Crozier children to enroll
in a nursing program at Case Western. "Her choice was directly related
to Allison’s experiences at CHOP," says Crozier. He and his wife are
active in the Organ Donor coalition for life, and Allison and her
father have made themselves available for the speakers’ bureau.
Crozier’s reaction: he felt really tired for six months after the
February operation. His business was still in Bergen County, and, even
when he was allowed to drive, his wife feared he would fall asleep on
the road. He worked three days a week for May, often with his wife
driving, and returned full time in June.
Also after the operation, he stopped working out regularly. "Between
the company and the family there is no time for that," he says. "Now I
chase after the kids and cut the grass. I can live vicariously through
the kids. The family comes first."
Crozier credits much of his business success to his late grandfather.
"I was his shadow," says Crozier. "He got to see me graduate from the
University of Cincinnati in 1981."
In Crozier’s senior year, he and his team had to design a
battery-operated remote control car. Grandfather stopped by on his way
to Florida to inspect the project.
"Gramps, What do you think?" we asked.
Sitting in his motor home, chewing on a cigar, his comment was, "You
can’t shine shit."
"It was the most humbling moment in our careers. He found everything
wrong in 15 minutes, and we redesigned it and won the competition. We
forever laugh about it."
His grandfather’s real legacy was his work ethic. "My wife and I
worked hard," says Crozier. "We are cheap, and we saved money to buy
the business. We wanted our daughter to not have to go to the
government for help. We want our kids to see you what have to do to
Pyrometer Instrument Company Inc., 92 North Main Street, Windsor
Industrial Park, Windsor 08561; 609-443-5522; fax, 609-443-5590. David
W. Crozier, CEO. www.pyrometer.com
Top Of PageWhere to Donate
Nationally, more than 91,000 people are waiting for the donation of an
organ, and 17 or 18 people die every day. Kidney patients make up
two-thirds of the national waiting list. Until recently, most
transplanted kidneys came from deceased donors, but now they are
outnumbered by donations from living donors. Two organizations cover
donations in New Jersey:
The Sharing Network Organ and Tissue Donation Services, 841 Mountain
Avenue, Springfield 07081. 800-SHARE-NJ. www.sharenj.org. Covering
northern and central New Jersey.
Gift of Life Donor Program, 2000 Hamilton Street, Suite 201,
Philadelphia 19103-3813. 888-DONORS-1 or 215-557-8090. Home page:
www.donors1.org. Covering southern New Jersey.
Although kidneys can be taken from deceased people at any hospital,
transplants in New Jersey can take place only at six certified medical
centers, including Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New
Brunswick and Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston. The latter,
St. Barnabas, accepts "altruistic" living kidney donors, people with
two good kidneys who are not acquainted with someone on the waiting
list but who want to help someone. Four people have done this since
"The procedure is painful, and the donor will probably have more pain
than the recipient," explains Bernard Kaplan, pediatric nephrologist
at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. "There can be complications,
and people have died asa result of the procedure, but this is
extremely rare, and if the other kidney is well, the chances are that
the donor will live well."