A Bond Beyond Marriage

Her husband’s life on the line, Cori Dudley donated one of her kidneys
Family photo of husband and wife kidney donor and recipient

As a young girl in the 1970s, Cori Dudley had a front-row seat to her aunt’s kidney disease. After years struggling as her kidneys failed, her aunt eventually received a transplant. It allowed her decades longer with her family.

Cori’s life moved on, until one day in 1994 when her husband, Tim, learned his kidneys, too, were failing. Suddenly, discussions of organ donation once again took center stage in Cori’s life, but this time, she was a potential donor.

It was a nurse who first asked Cori and Tim if they’d ever had their blood types tested to see if Cori could be a match to be a kidney donor.

In the following days, a blur of tests ultimately determined that, yes, she could safely give her husband a kidney, and with it, a new chance at life.

There was no question,” Cori says. “I was proud to be able to do this for him.”

Kidney Donation: An Easy Decision?

Not everyone finds the decision so easy. The kidneys play a vital in the body, removing waste from the blood, helping control blood pressure, and helping keep bones healthy.

But most of us are born with two kidneys, and you only need one to live a full, healthy life.

Cori’s memories of her now long-ago donation surgery for her husband are few, but clear. She remembers receiving an epidural, an injection in her back to block pain. The anesthesiologist told her to count down from 100 — but she only made it to 93. She woke up in the recovery room asking why the surgery hadn’t started yet.

In the hospital, she and Tim were in rooms across from each other. After three days, she was discharged, and Tim followed a few days later. Her recovery was simple and straightforward.

Tim’s surgery was also successful, but years later he succumbed to diabetes, a disease he had for decades.

These days, Cori continues to live a healthy life with her “badge of honor,” her nickname for the scar from her bellybutton to her back. She says she’s only had minor inconveniences over the years, such as the need for prompt treatment for urinary tract infection and the occasional discomfort from high-waisted pants chafing her scar. “One thing I can tell you,” she says with a laugh, “I was very excited when low-rise pants came along.”

Cori remains a vocal advocate for organ donation, partly from her own positive experience and partly because she’s acutely aware of the need for live kidney donors in our area. While she understands that major surgery is a big decision, she wants people to know how easy – in her own words “joyful” – the experience was.

“If I could give another kidney today, I would,” she says.

Kidney Donation Saves Lives

A kidney transplant is a life-changing procedure for those with total kidney failure. University of Vermont Medical Center’s transplant program provides comprehensive care for transplant donors and recipients.

Unfortunately, across our area, dozens of people are waiting -- sometimes for years -- for a new kidney. Because of changes in the federal allocation system for cadaver organs, kidneys that would have previously remained in our local area are now going to larger centers with higher wait times.

Kidney transplants from live donors are more desirable than cadaver kidneys because recipient wait list time is shortened and live donor kidneys are associated with better outcomes.

“This is why we encourage live donations,” says UVM Medical Center Transplant Surgeon Jaime Pineda, MD. “It’s better for the patient, it’s rewarding for the donor, and it’s better for our communities.”

Considering Kidney Donation?

If you are considering becoming a donor, the first thing you should do is call the UVM Medical Center Transplant Program at 802-847-4774.

You will be connected with our living donor transplant coordinator, who will walk you through the process. Living kidney donations can be either directed – when the kidney is intended for a specific person (as in the case of Cori and Tim) – or non-directed, in which a kidney recipient is not named.

Our transplant surgery team will provide you with a thorough evaluation to ensure the best possible outcome. This includes assessing your full medical history, imaging, lab tests and a psychosocial evaluation. You will also work closely with an independent living donor advocate who will help you understand all aspects of your decision, including any ethical issues involved.

Surgery for living donor kidney removal is much easier than it was decades ago. The procedure takes about three hours and is performed laparoscopically, through one-to-several small incisions in your abdomen. For most people, this means less pain, less scarring, a shorter hospital stay and an earlier return to your everyday life.

Recovery consists of rest and limited heavy lifting. Otherwise, says Dr. Pineda, “It’s really about living as healthfully as you can, just as we would tell any patient after surgery.”

There is one difference: You’ll be living those years knowing that you helped save a life.

Learn more about kidney donation at UVM Medical Center.

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