Likening it to “a needle in a haystack,” an Escalon family has found a kidney, to be provided by a living donor.
Clifton Vannorsdall is in need of a kidney and – as fate would have it – his daughter was discussing the family’s situation at work, with a co-worker moved to try and help out.
In November of 2014 Vannorsdall was diagnosed with Stage 3 chronic kidney disease, explained his wife, Katrina Alford-Vannorsdall.
A decline in health started in May, 2016 and by September, 2018 the family had an appointment to see about him qualifying for the kidney transplant list.
“At the same time our daughter Samantha had mentioned to a co-worker that her dad was in need of a living kidney donor. Her co-worker in turn immediately filled out the questionnaire,” noted Katrina.
Turns out the co-worker, Paula Cordova, was just what the doctor ordered.
“The first time I heard about kidney donation I was watching American Ninja Warrior with my husband, and a competitor named Austin Gray was featured. He had donated his kidney to a friend who was suffering through kidney disease. Several weeks later he competed on the ANW obstacle course. His heroism and resilience inspired me and first made me aware how relatively easy it is to be a hero in someone’s life. I said aloud after his run that if kidney donation ever crossed my radar, I would volunteer without hesitation,” Cordova explained.
It was just a couple of months later that she learned of her co-worker’s family situation.
“When she mentioned kidney disease and his search for a donor, it felt like fate. I signed up immediately,” Cordova added.
The process, she explained, was lengthy and had multiple delays but neither Cordova nor the Vannorsdalls lost faith.
Now, they are preparing for the procedure that will see one of Cordova’s healthy kidneys donated to Vannorsdall.
Katrina said there were definitely setbacks and others had been tested in hopes of being a match but no one was.
“I just started researching,” Katrina said of investigating options when her husband’s health started rapidly declining. “I was on a mission; I was going to save him.”
The family – which includes Clifton, Katrina and three daughters – ages 21, 19 and 8 – has set up an account on Facebook to help with expenses during the hospital stay and follow up appointments and care. Gift cards are also being accepted.
“We were really hoping we could make it through our kidney transplant journey without asking for help, but at the urging of a few friends we have decided to ask for everyone’s help,” Katrina posted on their Facebook page. “Your donations will help alleviate the cost of our lodging, toll charges, food and gas. Plus two follow up visits back to San Francisco.”
More information about the family’s journey and donations can be found at www.facebook.com/insearchofakidney.
Katrina said the family feels blessed that Cordova took on the donation process.
“It’s really the silver lining,” she pointed out. “My husband got a needle in a haystack kidney.”
For her part, Cordova said she didn’t think twice when the opportunity arose.
“I hadn’t really questioned my motives until several people asked me why I wanted to donate an organ from my body to a stranger. My recipient is a father to three beautiful girls, and then it hit me,” Cordova related. “I had lost my own father to suicide when I was 14. It was unexpected and irreversible. As a bystander to his suicide, I felt powerless. Over the years, I’ve relived that moment and wished I could have saved him. The torment of that impossibility inspires me to help in whatever way I can to others who need help.”
Cordova added that as she completed each step of the donation process and was found to be a match across the board, it “felt like a confirmation” that she was doing what she was meant to do.
“It is an honor and privilege to give this gift to this family,” Cordova said. “His wife thanks me all the time, but I feel grateful. This opportunity has allowed me to heal old wounds I thought were unable to be healed, so I am thankful for them.”
The families will forever be entwined and are all looking forward to the life-changing – and life-giving – operation soon.
“They have both been medically cleared and now we are looking at a mid to late July surgery date,” Katrina said.
Cordova, from Manteca, said her husband David has been supportive of her through the entire process. They have four children and Cordova said she is “a homeschooling mom, runner, vegan, and Disneyland fan” who is grateful for the chance to make a difference.
“I want others to know that thousands of people are waiting for a kidney, and it is relatively easy to be an everyday hero in someone’s life,” Cordova said. “Every life is valuable and deserves saving.”