Shaved Ice, Ferris Wheels, and a Kidney Transplant

Jody and Pat Cadwell are a husband and wife team who play together, work together, and who have a very special bond. Just ten months ago Pat donated her kidney to Jody after discovering that Jody had the same fatal kidney disease that took his mother’s life.

I regularly photograph for Sentara Foundation-Hampton Roads illustrating stories of real people who have been helped by the health professionals who make up the Sentara network. Though Sentara is a large organization, they believe that everyone has a story, and everyone’s story is important. Most recently I met and spent the evening with Jody, Pat, and their two children. They are inspiring people with an inspiring story, and I’m thankful to be able to share it with you.

After years in the entertainment business travelling with the likes of Aerosmith and Kiss, Jody met and married Pat. They settled down and opened amusement parks in Virginia Beach, North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina,  and the Outer Banks of North Carolina where they work together to provide fun, family-friendly entertainment to all who visit their parks.

Several years ago Jody began to feel uncharacteristically tired. Though he knew fatigue was one of the symptoms his mother had experienced, he didn’t want to acknowledge it. After Pat noticed and urged him to go to the doctor, Jody went…just in time. Tests showed his body was close to shutting down without dialysis, that his kidneys were failing, and that he would need a transplant.

It was highly unlikely that Pat would be a suitable donor for Jody. In fact, the odds were 1-in-100,000 that she would be a match. Armed with hope, Pat was tested, and together they waited. Jody recounted that he and Pat were driving when they got the call from Sentara with the news that Pat was able to donate her kidney. They had to pull off the road because of the overwhelming thankfulness both felt. As Jody told their story, tears of joy and gratitude overtook him (and me).

Once Pat was confirmed as a match, things moved quickly. Their son, Evan, took over their family amusement park business, and their daughter, Katie, came home from college to coordinate the day-to-day details for her parents.

Jody and Pat are thankful…thankful that Pat was a match and the surgery was a success, and also thankful for the care they received through Sentara. That care was expressed through state-of-the-art facilities, knowledgable medical staff, and a holistic approach to Jody and Pat and their needs. Jody remarked that he couldn’t have made it through without his doctor and the support he felt from all of his health care providers.

Jody and Pat reminded me of excited children as they showed me the park and described what they love about what they do. They love seeing kids laugh and smile and have a great time. They love experiencing life together, and because of his successful kidney transplant, there are more shaved ice and ferris wheels in their future.

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