This story was updated on Feb. 19, 2013.
When the Bullis School boys’ varsity basketball players took to the court Friday and Saturday nights, players wore patches with the name Cami on their sleeves, honoring their classmate who died suddenly Feb. 9 in her Rockville home.
Camille “Cami” Baruch was a senior at the small, private Potomac school with a senior class of just 85 students. She was described by family and friends as witty, sarcastic and vivacious.
Cami, 19, had Crohn’s disease and spent nearly 500 days in the past four years in a hospital room, but was recovering, according to her mother, Annette Baruch. Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract, according to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America.
“We considered her a normal teen. We were shocked,” Annette Baruch said. “She had big plans for her future.”
Cami complained of cold symptoms and on Feb. 8, visited her gastroenterologist, who put her on medication that she had taken in the past, Baruch said.
Cami went to bed that night and never woke up.
Baruch said she and her husband, Stephen, administered CPR and called 911 the next morning. An autopsy is being performed so the Baruchs can get answers.
“We are absolutely clueless. We will be waiting on that autopsy,” she said. “I hope it brings us some comfort. It is a terrible thing not to know.”
What the Baruchs do know is that their daughter was a straight-A student waiting to hear back from Cornell University, University of Virginia and Wake Forest. Cami’s brother, Nate, 20, attends Cornell.
She already had been accepted into the University of Miami, where her older sister Jessica attends graduate school.
Cami wanted to study medicine in college and become a surgeon to help others with Crohn’s disease, especially women.
“She dealt with a lot of doctors and felt there were not enough women in that field (colorectal),” Baruch said.
Cami lived much of her life without Crohn’s disease, battling with the gastrointestinal disease starting in 2007. Annette Baruch said the onset of Cami’s Crohn’s disease is believed to be linked to the generic equivalent of Accutane, an acne medication. Cami’s case was featured in a New York Times article about generic drugs.
She also worked with Congressman Christopher Van Hollen Jr. (D-Dist. 8) of Kensington and the Alliance for Justice to try to create legislation that deals with generic drugs and lawsuits.
Baruch said although the maker of Accutane was sued for its effects on patients, the generic version of the drug was not held liable for the same issues.
“Before 2007, she was never sick. She was an exceptional athlete and played basketball, softball and soccer. We were that family that ran from one practice to another. Our Saturdays were crammed with athletic events,” Baruch said.
Friday, the Bullis basketball team lined up for the national anthem before its playoff game with patches donated by G Street fabrics in Rockville on their shirts. The team and fans observed a moment of silence in Cami’s memory. On Thursday, the Bullis ice hockey team wore stickers with Cami’s name on their helmets, according to Bullis Director of Communications Susie Zimmerman.
A Facebook page in her memory has nearly 1,000 likes.
Gerald L. Boarman, the Head of School for Bullis, wrote on the page:
“Cami was an exemplary student and a beautiful person, kind-hearted, generous and with a great sense of humor. Her absence will leave a large gap in our hearts and in our community and her memory will always be a part of our School.”
On Feb. 13, a busload of students attended her funeral. “She was very well-loved in the community. We as a school community are still absorbing the shock and finding ways to remember her,” Zimmerman said.
Annette Baruch said Cami would be honored by the commemorative patch.
“It really makes us feel good,” she said. “Cami and me and her dad spent a lot of time together sitting in the hospital talking about a lot of things. She’s funny. She was exceptionally fond of elephants and she wanted to find a way to save them, but also be a surgeon. We expected she would do that. She’s been through a lot and she’s always rallied time and time again. She was determined.”
Memorial donations can be made to: Save the Elephant Program at the Wildlife Conservation Network, The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America or the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland.