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Transplant Couple Home From Hospital : Health: Husband who needed kidney and new wife who donated it both healing, looking forward to a long life together.

November 17, 1994|MICHAEL GRANBERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MISSION VIEJO — A pair of Orange County newlyweds whose story drew national attention returned home Wednesday, with the bride having given her left kidney to the groom in hopes of arresting his condition as a gravely ill diabetic.

"I feel great," said Randall Curlee. "It's such a relief. I don't know how to put it into words. What do you say to someone who's saved your life? You just say that you love them very much."

"I'm going home--to rest, to pet my dog, to get organized," said Victoria Ingram-Curlee, whose kidney was removed and transplanted into Curlee on Nov. 9. "I think other (potential donors) should open their eyes to making this happen for someone they love. It's a miracle."

Ingram-Curlee became the 350th American to have donated a kidney to a spouse, according to the United Network of Organ Sharing. Surgeons found it remarkable that she proved to be a candidate at all, but initial tests showed her kidneys an almost-perfect match with Curlee's.

The couple's story first got national attention when the two exchanged vows in a televised ceremony in the hospital chapel in mid-October, and got further attention when a mishap occurred in the operating room the next day.

An invasive radiologist, conducting a routine arteriogram of Ingram-Curlee's left kidney, nicked one of three arteries leading to the lower pole of the organ, delaying the operation almost a month. But immediately after the mishap, it was feared her status as a donor had been irrevocably compromised.

Subsequent tests indicated no lasting damage, but instead of removing her right kidney, which surgeons planned to do in the first place, they chose to transplant her left, thus leaving her with the better of the two. The damaged artery was then repaired before the kidney was sewn into Curlee's pelvis.

Doctors said Wednesday that husband and wife are healing properly and that Curlee, 46, should enjoy a much longer, happier life because of his 45-year-old bride's generosity.

Curlee's diabetes has caused him to suffer a heart attack and problems with his vision, as well as having to take insulin twice daily. Had he not had the transplant soon, doctors said dialysis would have been imperative.

"We're just elated," said Dr. Robert Mendez, director of the surgical transplant program at Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego, where he performed the operation. "You're looking at two wonderfully healthy young people."

"We can look forward to being around together for years," said Curlee, who added that he hopes to return to work--albeit from his home computer--as a marketing representative for a Costa Mesa audio company.

After a brief rest, his wife hopes to resume her duties as a real estate agent in Mission Viejo, where the couple recently occupied a new home.

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