The blood and tissue types were a perfect match. More important, the timing was perfect for a Watertown native to help save the life of a Westport girl.
In December, Benjamin C. Sudduth donated one of his kidneys to Molly E. Rascoe, a senior at Westport Central High School who is a teammate of Mr. Sudduth’s daughters, Mallory A. and Megan M.
The opportunity for Mr. Sudduth, 44, to give part of himself to his daughters’ friend and neighbor was something the girls, as well as the small community bordering Lake Champlain, found incredibly honorable.
“I’ve always been good friends with Molly. We sort of have a special friendship now,” said Mallory, a junior at Westport who plays soccer, basketball and softball with Molly. “He did something really inspiring. I was really excited that my dad would be able to help her get back to doing all the things she loves to do. She’s herself again because of my dad.”
BATTLING THE ILLNESS
Molly’s illness came on fast and fierce. She was diagnosed last year with Wegener’s granulomatosis, a rare form of inflammation of the blood vessels. It usually begins in the respiratory system, and as the autoimmune disease progresses, it can cause complete kidney failure.
Molly’s father, Bradley P. Rascoe, said his daughter was not acting like the energetic person he knew.
In July, Molly was rushed to Elizabethtown Community Hospital, where she was treated for kidney failure. She began dialysis in an effort to help her kidneys function again. When that didn’t happen, her family had only one option: find a donor.
Not long after, Mr. Sudduth came forward.
“I coach soccer,” Mr. Rascoe said, “and I remember one day during a game, Ben came over to me and said, ‘If Molly needs a kidney, I’ve got two. I’ll go and get tested.’”
Others volunteered as well. After numerous people went through various stages of testing, it came down to two: Molly’s aunt and Mr. Sudduth. The next round of testing eliminated Molly’s aunt and showed that Mr. Sudduth was a perfect match.
“There were lots of willing people, but Molly’s blood and my blood loved each other,” Mr. Sudduth said.
He said his decision was easy.
“I figured, what the heck. You only need one kidney to live,” he said.
A part of the community
Mr. Sudduth, a son of John and Ann L. Sudduth, Ten Eyck Street, graduated from Watertown High School and enlisted in the Marines in 1984. After four years of service with the Marines, he came back home, thinking he might become a city firefighter.
But then he got a temporary job working at Camp Dudley in Westport, a camp he used to attend as a child. There he met his future wife, Nicole A., and decided to remain in Westport. They married and now have two daughters.
Mr. Sudduth later joined the Air National Guard. He spent some time as a guard member at Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, commuting there from Westport until Griffiss closed in 1994. He then joined Westover Air Force Base, Chicopee, Mass., but in November 1999, a spot opened up with the Vermont Air National Guard, South Burlington.
In March 2002, he and five other members went to Kandahar, Afghanistan, where he helped provide fire protection for the air base for three months.
Mr. Sudduth, also a second lieutenant with the Westport Fire Department and captain of the emergency squad, is taking time off from the Fire Department and Vermont Air National Guard while he recovers.
Mr. Sudduth’s parents visited him for Thanksgiving, which was just before Mr. Sudduth and Molly underwent surgery Dec. 1.
“We couldn’t be more proud of him,” John Sudduth said of his son. “It’s a very honorable thing he decided to do for that young girl.”
A hero to Molly, Mr. Sudduth also is a hero and an inspiration to his family, said his wife, Nicole.
“The whole thing was a wild ride, but it’s one I would definitely take again,” she said. “What he did was very courageous. This is the most human thing a person can do. There aren’t too many people that can say they’ve saved a life.”