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Division of Transplant Surgery

Saving the life of a fellow fan and friend

Char Snyder and Teri Trafton

A friendship between two couples that began over CU football games ended up saving a life—and leading to the promise of more lives saved in the future.

Teri Trafton and her husband Charlie have been attending CU Buffs football games for years. That’s where they met another couple, Char and Lee Snyder, who are also longtime season ticket holders. The two couples saw each other regularly at games and struck up an acquaintance.

When the Traftons learned that Char Snyder had kidney disease and would need a transplant, they were concerned, but Lee told them a donor had been found, and they thought everything would be fine. However, when they saw Lee the following football season, they learned that the donor had turned out to be incompatible and that Char had taken a turn for the worse. She was now undergoing regular dialysis and faced a likely wait of 3-4 years for a deceased-donor transplant. Her doctors didn’t think she would make it that long.

That’s when Teri Trafton decided to donate one of her own kidneys to Char. After review of all her testing, doctors concluded that she was a great match.

Dr. Peter Kennealey and Dr. Thomas Bak performed the transplant surgeries at University of Colorado Hospital. The surgery went beautifully for both women.

The Synders were so grateful for Teri’s gift and Char’s recovery that, mere months after Char’s release from the hospital, they established the Trafton-Snyder Endowed Fund in Kidney Transplantation. Their generous gift will support the Division of Transplant Surgery, with a focus on kidney transplantation and care for end-stage renal disease.

Go deeper:

(November 2017)

College student donates kidney, changes two lives

Layne Pachl and Sandi Elder

What could motivate a healthy, athletic, 20-year-old woman to voluntarily undergo surgery to remove a perfectly good kidney? If the answer were saving the life of a close friend or family member, it would be a little easier to understand. But what if the person in need of the kidney were a complete stranger?

Layne Pachl is that 20-year-old woman, and the recipient of her kidney, Sandi Elder, is no longer a stranger. The two are friends now—in fact, they consider each other family. In a successful surgery here at University of Colorado Hospital, Dr. Thomas Bak removed Layne Pachl’s kidney, and Dr. Trevor Nydam transplanted it to Sandi Elder, whose life was transformed by the operation. Layne, who was back to her active lifestyle within weeks, says the experience has been transformational for her as well. You can read the full story in the Greeley Tribune (includes video).

(July 2017)

Three-year-old receives liver transplant from Mom

Peri and Claire Erickson

Peri Erickson was born with biliary atresia, a rare disease that creates blockages in the bile ducts inside and outside the liver. Infants who suffer from this condition are unlikely to live more than 1-2 years without surgical intervention.

The best long-term treatment for biliary atresia is a liver transplant, but the wait for a donor organ can be a long one.

When Peri's mother, Claire Erickson, learned that she could donate a part of her own liver to her daughter, she didn't hesitate. She began making plans with her husband, Justin, to prepare for the double operation, which would take place far from their home in Red Lodge, Montana.

On March 21, at University of Colorado Hospital, Dr. Elizabeth Pomfret removed a fifth of Claire's liver. The tissue was taken immediately down the street to Children's Hospital Colorado, where Dr. Michael Wachs transplanted it to three-year-old Peri.

A month and a half later, mother and daughter are both doing well. You can learn more of their story in the media:

(May 2017)

Love, loss, and a life saved

Cole Kennedy

Karen and Jim Kennedy of Castle Rock, Colorado, lost their 23-year-old son to a mountain-climbing accident in 2014. A little over two years later, the couple learned that Eric Rice, a childhood friend of their son's, had been diagnosed with a deadly liver disease.

Eric's health was deteriorating rapidly, and his best chance of survival was a liver transplant. When a potential transplant from a deceased donor fell through, Eric and his family were devastated.

Karen and Jim saw what the Rice family was going through, and they knew what it was like to lose a child. Karen decided to get tested to see if she could donate part of her own liver to Eric.

For the rest of the story, watch the video on the Denver Channel. (A brief advertisement will play before the video.)

(January 2017)

Baby gets life, liver from mother

April Wahlquist

Timothy Wahlquist was born with a rare liver disease that threatened to end his life before his first birthday. His parents, worried that the process of finding an organ donor would take too long, got tested themselves to see if either of them could be a match. Timothy's mother, April, discovered that she could donate part of her own liver to save her child.

Dr. Elizabeth Pomfret performed the operation on April, and Dr. Michael Wachs performed the operation on baby Timothy. For the rest of the story, watch the CBS news video. (A brief advertisement will play before the video.)

(November 2016)

Kidney donation crosses Pacific Ocean

Jim Fredrick

Ryan Davis, a husband and father of three, had been waiting for a kidney transplant for over a year. Thanks to a “paired donation” program, he was able to receive a kidney from a donor in Hawaii this November. This gift would not have been possible without the generosity of another Colorado man, Jim Fredrick (pictured, right), who donated one of his own kidneys to a needy recipient in Hawaii. This completed the circle and made the paired donation possible. For the full story, watch the video on the 9 News website. (A brief advertisement will play before the video.)

(November 2016)

College student donates part of liver to best friend

Hessa Miller and Hunter Dickson

What do you do when your "bestie" turns out to have a rare autoimmune disease and desperately needs a liver transplant? For 20-year-old Hunter Dickson, the answer was easy: you undergo surgery and donate part of your own liver. To learn more, watch the video on the CBS Denver website.

(June 2016)

Man who underwent historic transplant gets to see Lombardi trophy

Sam Johns poses with Lombardi Trophy

What Denver Broncos fan wouldn't love to see the team's Super Bowl 50 trophy in person? Sam Johns, a lifelong fan, got that privilege in very interesting way. Watch the video on the 9 News website to learn more.

(May 2016)

Kidney donor, recipient reunited after surgery

Donor Chrissie Smith and recipient Jillian LaPlante

What sort of person gives up one of their kidneys to someone they've never met? And what would you say if you got to meet the stranger who saved your life? To learn two women's answers to these questions, watch the video on the CBS Denver website.

(April 2016)

Cancer survivor wears motorcycle jacket in donor's memory

Wes Cook rides his motorcycle wearing a leather jacket that belonged to Cody Crosby

Cody Crosby had a positive impact on many people during his short life. When he was killed in an auto accident, his grieving family realized there was one more chance for Cody to help someone—in fact, to save a life. For the rest of the story, watch the video on the Denver Post website.

(April 2016)

21-year-old Coloradan donates kidney to stranger

Kelsey Crider and Nate Toci at University of Colorado Hospital

Nate Toci was driving home from work one day when a message on a billboard caught his eye: "Type O Blood / Kelsey needs kidney."

In that moment, Nate knew he wanted to help. He made inquiries, got tested, and learned he was a perfect kidney match for Kelsey Crider, a young woman who has been living with kidney disease for almost a decade.

The transplant surgeries took place at University of Colorado Hospital. Thanks to the generosity of a young man who had never even met her, Kelsey now has a chance at a longer, healthier life.

Watch the video on the Fox 31 News website. (A brief advertisement will play before the video.)

(March 2016)

More stories

For additional stories, visit the Department of Surgery's News Archive. To see only stories from the Transplant Division, use the filter feature or simply follow this link.

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