Everything was in place.
Thanks to a swap program, Cynthia (Sponsky) Hale of Ebensburg would be receiving a new kidney in just four weeks.
A woman in Wisconsin, a friend of her aunt, would travel to Johns Hopkins Transplant Center in Maryland to donate a kidney to a man who desperately needed it. And Hale was scheduled to get a kidney from “a perfect match” during the Sept. 11 surgeries, her mother, Carole Sponsky, said.
But on Aug. 14, Hale slipped getting into the bathtub and hit her head. She showed no sign of injury and, two days later, was able to celebrate her 15th wedding anniversary with her husband, Curt, in Pittsburgh. But on the morning of the 17th she collapsed at home and was rushed to the hospital. It was her 47th birthday.
She died Aug. 19, not of kidney disease, but from the subdural hematoma she suffered in the fall.
The organ donation journey did not stop with her death, however.
“They were able to give her liver to a man in Pittsburgh and that man is doing well,” her mother said. “He is a part of my daughter now.”
Hale’s corneas and heart valves were transplanted and her lungs were donated to cancer research.
And the willing donor in Wisconsin, Janet Sterken, has decided to go ahead with her part of the surgery on Sept. 11.
“It was never a consideration not to donate,” Sterken said.
“Once I said yes it was no longer my kidney.
“There was a conversation about postponing it, but Cindy died waiting and I don’t want someone else to go through that.”
The gift from a stranger astounds Sponsky.
“She did not know Cindy. Had never seen Cindy,” she said.
The family had been looking forward to meeting Sterken at the hospital. Instead, she made the trip from Wisconsin to be with them following Hale’s death.
“She was here for the funeral and everything,” Sponsky said. “She was a comfort to us.”
Sterken said she felt connected to Cindy and her family.
“We have a saying, ‘We are bound to those we pray for.’ And I have been praying for Cindy and her family for a long time,” Sterken said.
Hale’s kidney problems had surfaced in 1999, and in 2001 she received a kidney from her uncle.
But there were problems and she lost the kidney on the second day.
So Hale had dialysis three times a week until 2003, when she received a kidney through Johns Hopkins’ swap program.
“A cousin through marriage was willing to give a kidney, but she didn’t match Cindy,” her mother explained. “So, at Johns Hopkins, there was a young man who needed a kidney. Cindy’s donor matched that young man and that young man’s mother matched Cindy.
“Things went pretty well for Cindy for a long time and then she developed a condition that occurs in people about eight years after a transplant. It caused Cindy’s kidney to start shutting down.
“It only happens in 20 percent of the people,” Sponsky said.
So Hale went back on dialysis and was back in the swap program.
Sponsky said that no matter what she was going through, her daughter wasn’t one to complain.
“She always had a smile no matter what problems she was facing. She had the courage to face it every day,” Sponsky said.
“I sometimes wondered how she did it.”
The heartbroken mother said Hale was a loving and friendly person.
“Everyone was her friend,” she said.
In addition to her mother and husband, Cynthia Hale left behind her father, Chuck Sponsky; brother, Craig and wife Krista Sponsky; stepdaughter, Cassandra Hale; a nephew and niece and numerous other family members.
Her family hopes the loss of their loved one will help others think about becoming an organ donor.
“Cindy knew how much organ donation meant and she wanted to be an organ donor,” her mother said. “It’s really the gift of life.
“She wanted everyone to be aware.”
Everything was in place.
- Local News
- District Deaths May 20, 2013
Tornado vets balance preparedness, practicality
Few things in nature are less predictable than a tornado. They can form quickly. They strike weirdly, leveling one building while leaving its neighbor untouched.
Salisbury proved it can happen here
It was an event that many residents of Salisbury, Somerset County, would have laughed off prior to it spinning through the small northeastern town and shaking it to its foundations. A Category F3 tornado touched down on May 31, 1998, carving out 10 miles of homes, businesses and livelihoods.
When the storm hits
Tornado survivors and seasoned observers suggest people do two simple things to prepare for tornadoes: Know where to take shelter, and move quickly when the time comes.
9 Dems vie for 4 council spots
Democratic Party voters will have a crowded field of Johnstown City Council candidates to choose from on Tuesday.
With four seats open, nine individuals entered the race. The top four vote-getters will advance to this fall’s general election. Also, two Democrats originally joined the race for mayor, but the death of Anthony Gergely has left Frank Janakovic as the only remaining candidate.
Primary turnout likely will be low
The weatherman is promising warm temperatures and rain-free skies on Tuesday, the day of the primary election in Pennsylvania. But the good forecast may be overshadowed by a lack of voter interest in what is shaping up to be a mundane election.
Mudslinging hits the small time
It’s not just for presidents, governors and legislators anymore.
The time-honored American tradition of the smear job has hit close to home – specifically, the council race in Meyersdale Borough and the supervisor race in Stonycreek Township, Somerset County.
A Johnstown icon passes on
Carmel C. Coco of Johnstown, who was known for his skill at repairing shoes as well as his love for music, died peacefully at home on Saturday at age 95.
Rendezvous attracts diverse crowd
A few grandparents watched their little loved ones inspect the beautiful nature – grass, rocks, trees and bugs – at Greenhouse Park on Saturday. Some young men and women strolled throughout the grounds with cold beers in their hands on a sun-splashed spring day. Other campers sat around fires, playing guitars, telling stories and sharing laughs.
IN BRIEF | Solomon stabbing under investigation
A stabbing occurred at the Solomon Homes housing project in Johnstown on Saturday.
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