Tag Archives: kidney donation

Cathy Talmadge Gets A Kidney!

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.

To learn more about donating a kidney, click here. For information on registering as an organ donor through the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles, click here

Unsung Hero #99

In January, Emil Albanese saw an old friend.

The man was “never very svelte,” Emil — a longtime Westporter — says diplomatically. Now, though, he’d lost a lot of weight — and during the holidays, no less.

“How did you do it?” Emil asked.

Not a good way, the man said. He had kidney disease.

He needed a transplant. Unfortunately his wife was not a match. His son was diabetic. And his daughter was pregnant.

Emil asked his blood type. “O negative,” his friend said.

“So am I!” Emil replied.

He quickly added: “I’ll give you mine.”

Emil Albanese

Emil is 62 years old. But he’d just had a physical. His doctor pronounced him “incredibly healthy.”

Tests revealed that Emil was an excellent match for his friend. “We were like brothers!” Emil says with amazement.

Then came more testing: blood, urine and tissue samples; an MRI, to see if Emil could function with just one kidney, plus a session with a psychiatrist.

“Why do you want to do this?” the doctor asked.

“My 87-year-old father has such joy with his grandson,” Emil said. “I want my friend to have that chance too.”

In mid-April, Emil got the word: “We’re good to go.” His friend’s wife wept with joy.

Surgery was scheduled for early May.

Emil Albanese with his doctor. His name is not, as you may think, John Travolta.

The procedure took 6 hours. Small incisions were made in Emil’s navel; a long one went up his side.

His stomach was pumped with gas. The surgeon removed his kidney, tied it off, and made sure his other kidney took over.

The toughest part of post-surgery came from all that gas. Emil hurt everywhere. That’s normal, his doctor said.

This is not Emil Albanese’s actual kidney.

The pain has now subsided. Emil still has to be careful how he moves — he’s at risk for a hernia — but he considers that a small price to pay for giving his friend a kidney.

“I’ve always tried to do the right thing in my life,” Emil says. “I don’t understand how you can not do this, given the chance.”

Other friends and family members call Emil a hero. He does not think he is.

Of course, that’s one of the hallmarks of a hero. Which is why “06880” honors him today.

(For information on organ donation, click here. To nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net. Hat tip: Kathleen Galley)