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 — 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.
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.