Tag Archives: kidney transplant

A Kidney For Cathy Talmadge

2020 was bad for many Westporters.

It was even worse for Cathy Talmadge.

Five years ago, Cathy’s health started a mysterious decline. 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 Riley, or whip up dinner with husband Tom.

After many visits to medical specialists, Cathy was diagnosed with a rare form of sarcoidosis. The debilitating autoimmune disease ravaged her organs. Now in stage 4 kidney failure, she requires a live donor transplant as quickly as possible. 

Cathy Talmadge

Cathy — beloved by many for her work with Wakeman Town Farm, Earthplace. Sherwood Island State Park and the RTM — was put on donation lists around the country. Unfortunately, it could take years before a kidney became available.

She was told too that dialysis might wreak havoc on her body. She could become very sick — possibly unable to have a transplant.

Family members were tested, but none were a match.

A group of friends is now getting the word out. With the clock ticking, they’ve devised a no-holds-barred campaign. Today, longtime friend and colleague Christy Colasurdo and a team of local volunteers launch A Kidney for Cathy. They want everyone to know her story.

And they want everyone reading this to share it far and wide. Somewhere in the world, they know, a life-saving donor is waiting.

The idea for the campaign was born after Christy’s friend Kira Krieger Senders secured a living kidney donor for her father through a creative multimedia campaign.

Christy was also moved by the ALS Pepper Challenge closer to home. It spread the word about Westport icon Patty’s Habestroh’s condition, raised more than $650,000 for research, and received national media attention. 

Nearly two-thirds of all live kidney donors come from marketing campaigns on Facebook and other social media platforms. That’s the focus of this campaign. 

Organizers say, “Anyone can help the campaign go viral by following our  Facebook and Instagram pages, liking posts, and visiting the A Kidney for Cathy website to learn more about becoming a kidney donor.

“Sharing the online posts will spread the message far and wide. The viral power of social media can literally save Cathy’s life.” 

A quick, confidential survey assesses whether an individual might be a good candidate to donate.

While helping Cathy, the campaign will also shine a spotlight on the 114,927 patients currently on a kidney or liver transplant waiting list in the US.

Christy says. “A big part of this will be about educating the public. I was blown away to learn that Cathy can receive a kidney transplant from someone who is not a direct match. Cathy just needs a kind and healthy person to donate a kidney on her behalf.

“If not a match, that kidney goes to another recipient, which then enables the National Kidney Registry to put Cathy in the recipient pool to identify her perfect match. One donation inspired by Cathy will save two lives.”

Christy also learned that kidney transplants are now done laparoscopically, through a small navel incision. Donors typically spend only 2 or 3 nights in the hospital, followed by a quick return to full health and athletic pursuits.

“Donors overwhelmingly report that the most lasting effect is the good feeling they get from power of their gift. Most say that they would donate again in a heartbeat,” Christy adds.

A plea from Cathy Talmadge’s daughter.

Christy and other team members — including website designer (and Staples High School sophomore) James Dobin-Smith, graphic artist Miggs Burroughs, social media consultant Terri Piekara and Wakeman Town Farm co-chair Liz Milwe –ask everyone reading this to pass it along via their social networks. A toolkit on the website includes graphics to post or share

Questions about donating a kidney? Want to get more involved? Email  Akidney4cathy@gmail.com

Sammy Got Her Kidney

Less than 3 months ago, “06880” posted a plea from Scott Brownlow. His 20-year-old daughter Sammy — a lifelong Westporter — needed a kidney.

Sammy Brownlow

Sammy Brownlow

Born with congenital abnormalities, she’d endured multiple surgeries. Some worked, but they took a toll on her one remaining kidney. A transplant was the only option.

Scott always assumed he’d be the donor for his gentle, hard-working, multi-talented daughter — currently a pre-med student at RPI. But doctors said he was not a viable option.

Family and friends offered — but no one was cleared to donate. Sammy desperately needed a match.

On Christmas Day, Scott emailed me again. Two weeks earlier, his daughter had gotten her most precious gift: a kidney.

The donor was her kindergarten teacher, Jennifer Giannino.

Sammy and Jenn, in kindergarten.

Sammy and Jenn, in kindergarten.

She has known Sammy ever since that class at the Unquowa School, 17 years ago. Jenn went on to teach in Westport a couple of years later, but Scott, his wife Karen Minkowitz and Sammy kept in touch. They’ve become part of each other’s families.

A year ago, Jenn wondered if she’d be a match. But there was too much going on in her family and life to do the test.

This fall, when Sammy was about to go on dialysis, Jenn got tested. The match was made.

Jenn has been very healthy all her life. Before her pre-test CT scan, she’d never had an IV. Now she volunteered to put her life on hold, spend days in the hospital, and lose an organ — all for a former kindergarten student.

“It’s a rare person who acts so selflessly,” Scott says.

Addressing her directly, he adds: “Jenn, you are an amazing and beautiful person. We can never thank you enough for the gift you have given Sammy. We love you.”

“06880” does too. Happy holidays indeed!

Sammy and Jenn, 2 days after the transplant.

Sammy and Jenn, 2 days after the transplant.


Tony Giunta Needs A Kidney

For 35 years, Tony Giunta served Westport.  Now it’s time to repay the favor.

The Staples grad spent his entire career working for us, as a police officer and detective.  With his dogged determination, quiet grace and gentle good humor, he epitomized Westport’s finest.

Beyond his shifts, he was active as a Boy Scout leader and Staples Key Club advisor.  In 1996 he carried the Olympic torch down the Post Road, en route to Atlanta.

For more than 2 years, Tony has been on dialysis.  His kidneys are failing, and he needs a transplant.

If you — or someone you know — can donate a life-saving kidney, the time is now.  Contact Joyce Albert, Yale-New Haven Hospital transplant coordinator, at 203-688-8373.

Yale-New Haven Hospital kidney transplant