Gypsum woman spreading the word about live donors
GYPSUM, Colorado – Cary Hogan heard her significant other’s sister needed a kidney transplant and didn’t want her to have to wait on a donor list. She would have likely been on the list for longer than she would have lived.
Hogan’s longtime boyfriend, Todd Serwatt, wanted to donate a kidney to his sister, Linda Vodnik, but his kidney wasn’t a match. That’s when Hogan made the decision to go through the long and serious process of giving up one of her own kidneys.
“We knew she was going to die,” she said. “So I said, ‘Sure, I will do it.'”
The 53-year-old Gypsum resident had to go through months of medical tests to see if she could physically afford to give up a kidney. She had everything from a pap smear and a mammogram to a colonoscopy.
“I’ve been skiing for 47 years; I garden – I’m in shape,” she said.
She worried she might not be able to jump back into her favorite activities after the surgery, but she said she feels great. That’s why she wants people to know there’s more they can do than just add the organ donor icon onto their driver’s licenses. Live donors typically bounce back from the surgery and recover completely, she said.
“It changed my life – it made me a better person,” she said.
There are nearly 100,000 people in the United States waiting for organ transplants, with about 77,000 of those people waiting for kidneys, according to the National Kidney Foundation.
An article published in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this year reveals research that shows living kidney donors live just as long as people living with two healthy kidneys.
“The more we learned about the live donor program, it’s kind of a no-brainer,” Serwatt said.
Vodnik was the third of four siblings in her family to get a kidney transplant. Serwatt doesn’t suffer from the same condition his siblings did, but his kidney wasn’t a candidate for Vodnik. He said he’s so grateful that Hogan could be the donor.
“My sister is a very special person – it’s something she needed,” he said.
Vodnik’s husband was diagnosed with a sickness more than 20 years ago and was told he’d have a year to live. She has taken care of him every day since, and he’s still alive.
“She’s done a lot in her life,” Serwatt said.
Seeing Vodnik healthy today is Hogan’s daily reward. Hogan has been so inspired and touched by the whole process that she’s writing a book about live donors and their stories.
“When you see how little [donating an organ] affects your life, and how much it affects the other person, it’s really worth thinking about,” she said.
Hogan said it was her special way to do what people all over the Vail Valley do all the time – give. She couldn’t give with money, but she was able to save a life with one of her kidneys.
“This is just a different way of doing it,” she said.
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