WESTPORT - For the last year and a half, Molly Rascoe, a senior at Westport Central School, has traveled to Burlington three times a week for dialysis. In July 2009, Molly was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease
that impaired her kidney function, and she needed the regular blood treatments in order to survive. Now, she has every reason to hope that those long hours hooked up to the dialysis machine are a thing of the past. On Dec. 1, Molly underwent a successful kidney transplant at Burlington's Fletcher Allen hospital.
Molly's new kidney began functioning almost immediately, and her recovery has gone smoothly. She came home Dec. 5, two days earlier than expected.
She and her family are overjoyed at the successful outcome, though Molly's doctors caution that there is still a chance that her body might reject the kidney.
"The next two to three weeks will be critical," Brad Rascoe, Molly's father, said shortly after Molly returned home. "After that, the chances of rejection go down. We're hoping for the best, but we have to be very careful for a few weeks."
To lessen the chance of rejection, he explained, Molly is being given medication to suppress her immune system. "She can go to a movie, but if someone's coughing near her she'll have to leave. She's looking forward to seeing her friends again, but she won't be able to go back to school for at least a month or so."
Molly, whose positive attitude throughout her illness has impressed everyone who knows her, has her eyes on the slightly longer term. Westport girls shine at basketball, and Molly, a dedicated athlete, is no exception.
"I'm going to be on the team," she said, smiling. "I'll probably sit on the bench, but my goal is to play in a game before the end of the season."
If Molly does get to play in a game, it's likely that Ben Sudduth will be sitting in the bleachers cheering her on. Sudduth, whose own daughters Mallory and Megan attend WCS with Molly and her sister Emily, donated the kidney that's now working inside Molly.
Sudduth has been a volunteer firefighter and EMT for decades, and is currently captain of the Westport Emergency Squad. He still remembers a call to the Rascoe home when Molly suffered seizures from her illness in August 2009. He said that after years of focusing on just keeping people alive and getting them to the hospital, "I'm grateful that now I've had a real chance to actually fix somebody."
"For the rest of my life, I'm going to feel good about doing this," he continued. "I highly recommend that people think about becoming a donor."
People are born with two kidneys, he pointed out, but only need one. Studies have proven that kidney donors are just as healthy and live just as long as those who keep both kidneys.
"There's thousands of sick young people waiting for kidneys. Most anyone can do this," he said.
He urged those interested to call Kate Devine, Fletcher Allen's pediatric transplant coordinator, at (802) 847-4291.
The day before the transplant, the school and the community gathered in the school gym for an emotional send-off hosted by Molly's fellow seniors. Each elementary class presented Molly with a "Get Well Soon" card, and well-wishers had a chance to express public appreciation for Ben Sudduth's selfless act.
Molly's cause was taken up by a number of local organizations, including the Christopher Emmet Hallowell Fund, the Adirondack Polo Club, the Pull Tabs for Molly campaign, the Westport Education Association, and the Westport Fire Department and Emergency Squad. In Vermont, Molly and her family benefited from the assistance of Ronald McDonald House and Child Life of Vermont Childrens' Hospital.
"First and foremost, we're so grateful to Ben," Brad Rascoe said after Molly was home. "We've had such strong support from the whole community, and he was the icing on the cake. Molly's attitude from the beginning has been that she just did what she needed to do. But with the tremendous amount of support that we've received from people in Westport and neighboring communities, that made it so much easier."