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Siblings mark 40 years since kidney donation
Claude E. Cassell (left) holds a plaque given to him by his sister, Virginia Dale Cassell Snow (right), to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the day in 1972 when he donated one of his kidneys to her. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
By ASHLEY JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer
Doctors told Virginia Snow of Mount Airy, N.C., that the kidney donated by her brother, Claude Cassell of Bassett, would extend her life for only about 13 years.
That was 40 years ago.
Snow, 66, said the transplant gave her a new life, and she felt like she had been reborn.
Back in 1972, only a few kidney transplants had been done at Wake Forest Baptist Hospital, Snow said.
Before the transplant, “I didn’t think I was going to make it,” she said.
Both of her kidneys were close to shutting down, and she was taking dialysis twice a week for eight hours a day, she said.
Snow constantly felt sick and could eat only certain foods. By the time of the transplant, she weighed only about 82 pounds, she said.
Growing up, Snow always was sick, but no one knew at the time what was wrong. After she had her first child in 1967, doctors told her that in the future, she would need a kidney transplant, she said.
Five years later, she had the transplant, thanks to her brother.
When it was time to start finding matches for a transplant, all of Snow’s 10 siblings tested to see if they were a match, Cassell said.
Only Cassell, now 75, and one sister matched. However, later tests found that the sister had a spot on her kidney and it could not be used, so that left Cassell as the only match, he said.
At first, he was hesitant because he had a wife and three small children and was afraid of something going wrong during the procedure. But with all the confidence the doctors had that the procedure would succeed and after he prayed about it, he said his doubts went away.
“When I prayed, God told me it’d be OK and I took him on his word ... and it has been OK for the last 40 years,” Cassell added.
Leading up to the transplant, Snow also was nervous because “I wanted to live to raise my children,” she said of her two daughters. But she was getting tired of taking dialysis and feeling sick, so she was ready for go ahead with the procedure.
Snow remembers being rushed to the hospital, her body being placed in ice, and doctors telling her that the transplant could not be delayed and had to be done that day, May 16, 1972. Doctors immediately called Cassell, and he rushed in, she said.
Both Cassell and Snow recovered well from the operation. Cassell has not experienced any problems since then, he said.
Snow no longer takes any medications, has been released from her kidney doctors and only has to go to the doctor for yearly physicals, she said.
“It’s unreal how good I do feel,” and words cannot express how grateful she is to her brother, Snow said.
“He (Claude) had a big heart to do that,” she added.
Considering how well Snow took to the transplant, it was definitely “the Lord working in our lives ... we give him the glory,” Cassell said.
“It was meant to be ... it was a miracle,” Snow said.
Cassell wanted to donate his kidney because “I loved her ... she was my sister,” he said. If he had to do it all over again, he would “in a heartbeat,” he added. “I didn’t save her life; the Lord did.”
Each year, Snow visits Cassell to give him a gift of thanks for the transplant. Cassell said she doesn’t need to do that because “I did it out of love.”
Snow said to anyone going through kidney problems, “there is hope,” and there is someone out there who can possibly save a life.
Cassell suggested that everyone consider donating a kidney to someone in need because “you can live just as good with one as you can two,” and he is proof of that, he said.