2021 was quite a year for Cathy Talmadge.
On January 11, Christy Colsaurdo and a team of volunteers launched “A Kidney for Cathy.” The goal was to find a donor for the well-respected Westporter. She’d spent 5 years in declining health. The avid swimmer gardener, environmentalist, traveler, reader and cook could barely get out of bed, much less work in her gardens, walk her golden retriever or whip up dinner with her husband Tom.
After many visits to medical specialists, Cathy had been diagnosed with a rare form of sarcoidosis. The debilitating autoimmune disease ravaged her organs. In stage 4 kidney failure, she required a live donor transplant as quickly as possible.
She knew tons of people through her work with Wakeman Town Farm, Earthplace. Sherwood Island State Park and the RTM. But finding a kidney was difficult.
Family members were tested, but none were a match.
Cathy’s name was on donation lists around the country. Yet it can take years before a kidney becomes available.
So Cathy’s many friends went to work. Somewhere in the world, they knew, a life-saving donor was waiting. They also knew that two-thirds of all live kidney donors come from marketing campaigns on social media. They hoped a creative approach could help.
The year was an emotional roller coaster. Many generous people — including several from Westport — stepped up to be screened, to assess their chances of becoming a viable kidney donor.
Nearly all were disqualified, for one reason or another.
But at 4 a.m. Wednesday — 1 year and 1 day from the start of “A Kidney for Cathy” — she got a call from Yale New Haven Transplant Center.
A deceased donor kidney had become available. Could she come right in for a transplant?
Five hours later — minutes before being wheeled into the operating room — she shared the great news with Christy and others. She asked them to pass along her appreciation for all the kind people who supported her — and of course to the donor and the donor’s family.
The transplant procedure lasted 3 hours. Cathy is doing well in recovery. Her doctors say she’ll return to Westport soon.
With her new kidney, Cathy can resume most of the activities she enjoyed most before falling gravely ill. She’ll swim, hike, travel — and contribute immeasurably to the life of our town..
Christy says, “Many pieces had to fall into place for this transplant to become a reality. Over 90,000 Americans are awaiting kidney donors, so this ending is nothing short of a miracle.
“Credit it to the incredibly selfless people in town who came forward to form Cathy’s ‘village.’ Everyone who sent a card, dropped off a meal, called to check in or underwent testing to become a donor, truly made a difference.”
Congratulations, Cathy! Best wishes for a speedy recovery.