Laura Coker Blandford ’97 posted an urgent message on Facebook on August 27, 2016: Unless a kidney donor stepped forward soon, she would die a slow death.
“I want to see my son graduate high school, college,” she wrote. “I want to be a grandmother and spoil his children rotten and I truly feel like I have so much life left in me that I want to live!”
Tracy Tyndall Pabst ’98 read the note, “and it just got me.”
Pabst knew Blandford as a Delta Gamma sorority sister and Facebook friend. While “we weren’t super-duper close,” Pabst looked at Blandford and saw a daughter, a wife, a mother of an 11-year-old boy, a woman whose kidneys were failing due to complications related to Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and other ailments.
Letting her die was unthinkable.
Then Blandford posted again, this time mentioning that her blood type is O-positive. Pabst thought that might be her blood type too. She gave blood and yes, she and Blandford matched.
“So that was my first sign,” Pabst said.
A few weeks later, Pabst talked to her husband, Sean. “She sat me down on the couch one Sunday evening before dinner,” he recalled. “She said, ‘Hey, I need to talk to you about something.’ It’s never good when your spouse starts a sentence that way. But she told me and I said, ‘I know you well enough that you wouldn’t verbalize this if you hadn’t already made up your mind.’ So I was in full support.”
Pabst talked to her father and mother, a doctor and nurse, respectively, and “they were totally on board with it.”
In September, Pabst and Blandford began the process to make sure they were a match.
On December 6, they found out they were. “I just broke out in tears,” Blandford said.
And on January 19, Blandford received Pabst’s left kidney in an operation at a hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, about an hour from her home in Louisville.
The day after, Blandford posted a video on Facebook: “Everything went well. Just want to let you know you now have a friend who has three kidneys. So I’m extra awesome now.” She’s faced some complications since, but is back home now.
And Pabst, a pharmacist, was cleared to go back to work after three weeks.
Pabst said the response to her remarkably selfless act has been overwhelming. A table in the sunroom of her Indianapolis home is covered in cards and gifts—some from people she doesn’t know who heard about what she did.
No one, of course, was more grateful than the Blandford family.
“I want to give the biggest hug, thanks, and love in the world to Tracy Tyndall Pabst for her amazing gift to our family,” Blandford’s husband, TJ, posted on Facebook. “I will never be able to express my gratitude to her.”
Laura said simply: “Tracy gave me life. She gave me life back.”