Colo. woman gives kidney to fellow teacher, friend
July 26, 2010
GREELEY, Colo. (AP) – It’s one thing to be a best friend for years. It’s another thing entirely to give her a body part.
For Cathy Gigliotti and Cindy Woods, the “friend thing” has been going on since they were school kids in Greeley. They both teach in Milliken now, and their friendship is still strong.
A few months ago, Gigliotti got the word from her doctor: She needed a new kidney. “I called Cindy,” Gigliotti said, “and joked about donating a kidney…”
“…and I prayed about it,” said Woods. “Then I called her back and said I’d give her one of mine.”
And so the adventure began for the two friends.
Gigliotti’s kidneys were damaged because of a misdiagnosis for headaches years ago. The doctor said she was having headaches because of allergies. She gave herself shots but nothing helped.
Another doctor diagnosed her high blood pressure, and after so many years, both of her kidneys were damaged. Then last year, the doctor told her, “It’s time. Your kidneys are functioning between 7 and 9 percent, and it’s going to get worse.”
The doctors told her it could be a two-year wait for a donor.
That’s when Gigliotti called her friend and joked about the kidney donation.
They have been friends for 40 years, both attending Heath Junior High, then graduating from Greeley West High School. Today, Gigliotti is an eighth-grade teacher at Milliken Middle School, and Woods teaches second grade at Milliken Elementary.
And they share something special now.
Because of the progress of anti-rejection drugs, kidney transplants don’t have to be a direct match – from a family member – anymore. There are six “matches” for a donor/recipient, the women said, and in their case, two of the six points matched.
So, more than six weeks ago, after school was out for the summer, Woods and Gigliotti went to University Hospital in Denver for the surgery.
They were in adjoining surgical rooms.
“They opened me first,” said Gigliotti, “to make sure it was just the kidney and there were no other problems.”
“Then they opened me,” Woods said, “and took one of my kidneys, put it in a bowl and carried it next door.”
The doctors transplanted Woods’ kidney into the abdominal area of Gigliotti, leaving her two other kidneys still in place because they aren’t functioning anyway. Gigliotti will be on anti-rejection medication for the rest of her life, but it’s well worth it. She’s never had to undergo dialysis and probably never will.
“I didn’t know I’d felt so sluggish for so many years,” Gigliotti said. “I have so much more energy now.” For Woods, she’s been a little tired lately from giving away a body part but is improving quickly.
Before the surgery, Woods said she prayed again: “I said, ‘OK, God. I trust you to shut the door if something isn’t going to be all right here.’ He never did.”
And Gigliotti says the words over and over now, about her new kidney and the donation: “The most important part of this whole thing is the donor.